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BUILD A PROTON PRECESSION MAGNETOMETER

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An educational "backyard" project, constructed using easily obtained electronic parts. A frequency counter is used to measure the post-polarizing pulse proton precession frequency. The measured frequency is related, by a physical constant, to the magnitude of the local geomagnetic field.

Background
For some background information and a description of a practical application for a proton magnetometer, see "The Amateur Scientist "column in the February 1968 issue of Scientific American. Construction of a dual coil magnetometer is described. Information in that article formed a basis for the details shown here. I constructed a fluxgate magnetometer several years ago. It was based upon Richard Noble's article in the September 1991 issue of Electronics World + Wireless World. With a chart recorder, it is possible to see the dirunal changes in the east-west component of the earth's magnetic field, after nulling out the overpowering total and north-south components. After finding the February 1968 Scientific American article, I thought that it would be an interesting project to try adding a frequency counter to the proton magnetometer.It would be an interesting "backyard science" project to use it to provide a measure of the earth's total magnetic field. The addition of a digital to analog converter can provide a output suitable for a chart recorder. However, a suburban backyard environment is a rather noisy one. Harmonics of the power line frequency extend well up into the audio frequency range. These compete with the decaying precession frequency tone. Connecting the sensor coils in differential series, sensor orientation and instantaneous sampling of the audio signal help in contending with the noise. From the physical sciences a quantity called the"Larmor frequency" defines the angular momentum of protons precessing in the presence of a magnetic field. There are currently quantum-mechanical views that explain particle precession, but a classical explanation seems a bit easier to comprehend. A proton, a charged particle, may be thought of as having definite "spin" about an "axis" and acts as a small magnet. An externally applied Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 1 of 14

The fluxgate sensor was tipped upward from a horizontal position to nearly vertical to obtain the maximum reading of the earth field.58 mHz / Tesla x 52500 x 1E-9 Tesla= 2235 Hz In my northeast location the frequency readings currently average about 2271 Hz. This axis tends to align with an external magnetic field. corresponding to a total field of about 53. but causes the particle to wobble at a slower rate about an axis of precession.000 nanoTesla and varies from location to location.000 to 55. Presently. This also seems to agree with the magnitude of the predicted long term variation shown by the USGS site. the total magnetic field strength is in the order of 50.58 mHz per Tesla. In the northern latitudes of the U.53 x 1E6 radians per second per Tesla or 42.300 nanoTesla. For protons this quantity is equal to approximately 267. any alignment tends toward randomness due to thermal effects and other molecular interactions. I have noticed a decrease in the frequency readings of about six or seven Hertz over the past twelve months or so since the sensors have been in place in the backyard.S. Diurnal variations caused by solar induced ionospheric currents are in the order of tens of nanoTesla. VA monitoring station . This agrees quite well with the USGS readings shown for the Fredericksburg. However in weak magnetic fields. This figure also agrees with the value obtained using the fluxgate magnetometer that was calibrated using a Helmholtz coil.magnetic field does not alter the spin rate. Originally the frequency readings were around 2277 or 2278 Hz. The proton precession frequency detected by a suitable sensor in the geomagnetic field of the earth will be at a frequency in the audio range: Example: 42. the long term trend of the total field is in the order of minus 90 nanoTesla per year ( steadily decreasing). Short period variations due to magnetic storms may reach several hundred nanoTesla. Return to main page Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 2 of 14 . 160 miles to the west. The proton reacts to the perturbing effects of an externally applied magnetic force by precessing at a rate in accordance with a precise constant called the gyromagnetic ratio.

) Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 3 of 14 . The frequency counting circuitry is not used. Only the senor coil(s) . A timer IC is used to provide switching contol to a relay that alternately connects the sensing coil between a polarizing current source and the input to the audio amplifier.(Click figure for larger diagram.PROTON PRECESSION MAGNETOMETER This is a block diagram of a "listen only" version.audio amplifier and dc power source are included.

A four decade BCD counter dis.1 Hz. A frequency multiplier method employs a phase locked loop to provide these resolutions using counter gate intervals much less than one second.plays frequency to a selectable resolution of 1 or 0.This is a block diagram of a magnetometer design that adds the capability to measure the frequency of the voltage induced in the sensor coil by the precessing protons after the application of a polarizing current several seconds in duration. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 4 of 14 .

75 inches.Note that the coil inductance increases as function of the square of the number of turns while coil resistance increases as linear function of the number of turns. There are advantages --lower coil resistance. and possibly most important. The higher coil Q will sustain the ringing effect of induced by the decay signal for a longer period of time. A higher Q will also aid in providing a narrower tuned circuit bandwidth--important in improving the signal to noise ratio and reducing the pickup of high order power line harmonics.Also. providing higher coil Q and possibly higher polarizing current (if the power supply can provide it ). There are a number of sizes available. Also found some taller ones that would provide a coil length of about 3. the coils will be tuned by the addition of a shunt capacitor---perhaps the most important component of all. The coil inductance should high enough to permit the use of a reasonably valued non-polarized capacitor. A higher polarizing current increases the initial amplitude of the decay signal. Check the area where the spices are located.SENSOR CONSTRUCTION I found the local super market to be a good source for coils forms on which to wind the magnetometer coils and contain the proton medium. These make a form on which a multilayer coil can be easily wound. I found that these use thin walled plastic containers that have encircling ridges at the bottom and just below the lid. This suggests that the best results (high Q and tuned circuit selectivity) will be obtained using the largest number of turns and largest wire size that is practical. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 5 of 14 . (CLICK FIGURE FOR DETAILS ) The above referenced page shows the particular size used. A somewhat larger container would conveniently allow the use of a larger wire size. Particularly look for the store brand spices.

A coil tuning capacitor for two sensor bottles as shown.It may be possible to place the 700 turns in four layers. Actual turns count is not critical. try making a gasket from bicycle inner tube or similar material. 5. The lids may have a paper inner liner that should be discarded. After winding. Most likely it will take five layers. If needed to stop leaking. Coil constructed as shown will provide an inductance of about 10 millihenries. An approximate formula (neglects a small multilayer correction factor of about negative 5 percent) for calculating the inductance is: L=(r2n2)/(10(r+l)) where: r=one half the bottle diameter in inches n= number of turns l= coil length (inches) 3. However. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 6 of 14 . In my backyard environment. An orientation with the coil axes in line and electrically series opposing provided a degree of cancellation of common-mode power line noise pick up. Distilled water. for the best signal to noise ratio. Common isopropyl alcohol will work. will be about 0. If you have 700 turns before reaching the end of the bottle. fill the bottle with a "proton rich" fluid. 4.Notes on Sensor Construction 1.25 microfarads. These were connected in series and oriented for minimizing the level of power line harmonics. 2. continue winding to complete the final layer. I found that two identical coils were useful. methanol have been used. as subsequent layers are added it becomes more difficult to maintain close spacing. kerosene. connected in series. Spice bottles are not designed to hold liquids.

Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 7 of 14 .AUDIO AMPLIFIER The audio amplifier uses four bipolar transistors and one dual operational amplifier integrated circuit. Maximum available gain is in excess of 130 dB. The block diagram at the left shows the stage gain distribution. The operational amplifier provides a two stage active bandpass filter centered at the expected frequency of the proton precession.

The circuit board is housed in a Radio Shack molded project case.The theoretical gain vs. The amplifier was built on double sided copper clad PCB material. Vectorboard is difficult to use for a circuit made up entirely of discrete components. frequency is shown in the figure below. With such high gain careful construction is required to prevent oscillation The figure at the left briefly outlines physical details. Components are soldered to standoff terminals. The inside of the case is lined with adhesive backed aluminum tape. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 8 of 14 . A push-in type nylon or teflon terminal is used.

However. noise from the sensor coils and external pickup exceed the intrinsic amplifier noise contribution. The tuned circuit formed by the coils and resonating capacitor present a parallel impedance of about 3000 ohms. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 9 of 14 . The noise contribution from a 560 ohm resistor soldered across the input terminal can be detected.The input stage uses a 100 ohm unbypassed emitter resistor to raise the input impedance to about 12 kilohms to reduce loading on the tuned sensor coils. A number of different devices were randomly selected and tried at the input stage in order to find one providing the best signal to noise ratio.

Others may find it of interest or may adapt it to a specific practical application.that is.The following page links to the schematic of a counter implemenation that measures the precession frequency. It is offered for informational purposes only. substitution of equivalent CMOS logic ICs in place of TTL types will reduce dc current requirements. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 10 of 14 . The 4060 counter /oscillator and 4046 Phase Locked Loop IC are probably good choices in any event. Integrated circuit choice was based on economy--. There are many alternate ICs that may be substituted for the NAND gates. One of my objectives was economy. to use parts that were on hand or easily obtained standard components. using parts that were on hand. It was intended as a educational project to attempt to provide a measurement of the magnitude of the local geomagnetic field. If power is to be obtained from batteries. counters and multivibrator. Counter Circuit Description The circuit shown requires twelve integrated circuits in addition to other discrete components. For operation from a battery source lower power dissipation equivalent CMOS logic elements can be substituted for the TTL elements shown. but there are other possibilities there also.

Certainly. the signal is competing with ac power line harmonics. the full count cycle of the 4 stage binary counter is used. They sell for about two for a dollar at Active Electronics or a dollar each at Radio Shack. The final output of the last stage is 2 Hz or a pulse repetition rate of 0.768 kHz that is applied to a fourteen stage counter. After removal of the polarizing current the the relay connects the coil(s) to the input of an audio amplifier. A phase locked loop is used to permit measuring the precession frequency to 1 an 0. in a backyard environment. in the last case. The oscillator portion produces an output frequency of 32. and 10 seconds to resolve frequency to 0. Measuring the VCO frequency directly ( ahead of the divide by ten counter ) allows resolution to 0. individual light emitting diodes are used to display the state of the Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 11 of 14 . the counter should begin sampling immediately after the removal of polarizing current. The other input to the phase detector is derived from the voltage controlled oscillator (VCO) whose frequency is divided down by two intervening digital dividers. The oscillator circuit is pretty much per CD4060/MC14060 application note. ones and tenths Hz. This drives a 4 stage binary counter whose last stage provides a four second high / four second low logic level. the most significant digit (thousands) overflows the fourth stage of the counter leaving the display of hundreds. Polarizing current should be applied to the sensing coils for several seconds in order to maximize the amplitude of the precession signal.1 Hz. Three seconds appears to be sufficient. One input to the phase detector is the output of the audio amplifier. Also counting should only be done when the signal amplitude is well above the noise level. And. These are the tiny cylindrical units found in some digital wrist watches. after one second. In this case. For simplicity. the signal would have long decayed below amplifier noise or local power line harmonics. This will require the addition of at least one four input NAND gate to decode the counter state (10 count ) and reset the counter. For simplicity and economy. a divide by 10 and a divide by 8 in series. In order to obtain an accurate measurement of the frequency.5 seconds. Measuring the VCO output frequency at the output of the divide by ten counter using a counting interval of one-eighth second allows resolution to 1 HZ. Measuring the audio amplifier output directly would require a 1 second counting interval to resolve to 1 Hz at the expected relaxation frequency. it would probably be useful to shorten the four second (listen) non polarizing interval to a half second. The output of the audio amplifier is a ringing tone at the precession frequency.1 Hz resolutions using counting intervals much less than one second.) Timing for polarizing the sensors and measuring frequency is derived from a watch crystal. whose amplitude rapidly decreases into the background noise level.(There is another circuit shown in a separate segment that is a simpler LISTEN ONLY version.1 Hz. tens . If the intent is to use the magnetometer in a portable search mode. It eliminates the frequency counter and uses a timer to cycle the polarizing current to the sensor coils on and off. When in lock the VCO frequency is then equal to the audio amplifier output frequency multiplied by a factor equal to the total division ( 8 x 10 =80).

This is probably easier than decoding the states of the CD4060 and 74197 counters (U1 and U2) that derive the time base from the 32. seven segment LCD. there is only a variation in the least significant digit when using one Hertz resolution or the last two significant digits when resolving to one-tenth Hz. For economy. These will require the addition of the appropriate BCD to segment decoder/drivers or the use of the expensive integrated counter/display ICs....Q and inverted Q. Straight decoding would require several multiple input NAND gates as well as inverters ( since the counters do not provide complementary logic outputs. monostable multivibrators (one shots) are used to set the decade frequency counter gating and timing intervals. (Although just listening to the audio output may be sufficient to detect magnetic anomalies. ) There are many choices to implement this .) Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 12 of 14 . etc.-composite LCD display.768 crystal. two or three should be sufficient since this stage will normally always read the BCD equivalent of a 2 ( two thousand or two hundred depending upon the resolution selected).decade counter. The schematic shows four LEDs at the most significant digit. Under stable conditions. If the intended use is for portable searching. minimizing interconnecting wiring and component count ... I suspect that it would be desirable to use a decimal display so that changes in the reading may be easily seen.

Open connection between points D1 and D2. The desired counter display should be equivalent to 0.2 seconds which will be displayed as 0. Make the following additional temporary test connections: 1. Use a nominal value of 56 kohms or 62 kohms as the timing resistor for R3. U3B Delay: Leave previous test connections as they were. Temporary connection from point E1 to D1. Observe counter reading as before and Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 13 of 14 . 2.2 X 16384 or 3277. The counter display should produce a new reading every eight seconds. resulting in a frequency of 2048 Hz. This places an enabling signal to the decade counter input gate that is equal to the time delay of multivibrator U3A. The oscillator frequency has been divided by a factor of 16 at this point. Open the connection between points TC1 and TC2.The periods of the multivibrators must be set with some degree of accuracy since the tolerance on the nominal values of the timing components is insufficient to guarantee correct time delays. Manually reset the counter by manually grounding B1. U3A Delay Make the following temporary connections: 1. Open connection between points A1 and A2. 2. The timing resistor values. are varied as needed to provide the correct time delays. Adjust the value of R12 at pin 11 of U10 to some value around 8000 ohms or so. Set the resolution switch (S1) to 1 Hz. Connect A2 to the 2048 test signal at U1 pin 7. Open connection between points B1 and B2. 3. Select a value of resistor to give time delay of 190 to 210 milliseconds or a counter reading between 3112 and 3440. This should adjust the free run frequency of the CD4046 VCO to value that will allow it to phase lock to the test signal. This connects the divided (by 10) VCO frequency of 16384 to the decade counter input gate. At lock the VCO frequency should be 80 times that of the test signal or 163840 Hz. Connect a short insulated wire to B1 such that you can manually touch it to ground to reset the decade counter zero. Time Delay Adjustment The fourth binary stage of the CD4060 oscillator/counter output (Q4) is available at pin 7. R3 and R4. The existing accurate time base waveforms and the decade counter are used to set the time delays accurately.

VCO Frequency: Temporarily connect point A1/A2 to ground.LATEST REVISION: 23 July 1999 Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 14 of 14 . Adjust the value of R4 to provide a delay time between 90 and 100 milliseconds. Adjust value of R12 to produce a counter reading of 2230 to 2250. Use an initial value of 27 kohms for R4. Restore all connections to normal per schematic. RETURN TO FIRST PAGE GO TO COUNTER CIRCUIT CONSTRUCTION PAGE UNDER CONSTRUCTION ------.reset counter manually as needed. Remove temporary ground. equivalent to counter readings between 1475 and 1638.