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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

However in weak magnetic fields. VA monitoring station . This agrees quite well with the USGS readings shown for the Fredericksburg.300 nanoTesla. This axis tends to align with an external magnetic field. Presently. but causes the particle to wobble at a slower rate about an axis of precession. 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. Short period variations due to magnetic storms may reach several hundred nanoTesla.000 nanoTesla and varies from location to location. Originally the frequency readings were around 2277 or 2278 Hz. corresponding to a total field of about 53.58 mHz per Tesla. 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 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. For protons this quantity is equal to approximately 267. Diurnal variations caused by solar induced ionospheric currents are in the order of tens of nanoTesla. 160 miles to the west. the long term trend of the total field is in the order of minus 90 nanoTesla per year ( steadily decreasing). The fluxgate sensor was tipped upward from a horizontal position to nearly vertical to obtain the maximum reading of the earth field. This also seems to agree with the magnitude of the predicted long term variation shown by the USGS site.58 mHz / Tesla x 52500 x 1E-9 Tesla= 2235 Hz In my northeast location the frequency readings currently average about 2271 Hz.53 x 1E6 radians per second per Tesla or 42. Return to main page Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 2 of 14 .000 to 55. the total magnetic field strength is in the order of 50. any alignment tends toward randomness due to thermal effects and other molecular interactions. In the northern latitudes of the U.magnetic field does not alter the spin rate.S. This figure also agrees with the value obtained using the fluxgate magnetometer that was calibrated using a Helmholtz coil.

Only the senor coil(s) .(Click figure for larger diagram. The frequency counting circuitry is not used. 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.) Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 3 of 14 .audio amplifier and dc power source are included.PROTON PRECESSION MAGNETOMETER This is a block diagram of a "listen only" version.

A frequency multiplier method employs a phase locked loop to provide these resolutions using counter gate intervals much less than one second.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 .1 Hz. A four decade BCD counter dis.plays frequency to a selectable resolution of 1 or 0.

(CLICK FIGURE FOR DETAILS ) The above referenced page shows the particular size used. There are advantages --lower coil resistance. 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. Particularly look for the store brand spices. A somewhat larger container would conveniently allow the use of a larger wire size.Also.75 inches. 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. and possibly most important. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 5 of 14 . providing higher coil Q and possibly higher polarizing current (if the power supply can provide it ). These make a form on which a multilayer coil can be easily wound. 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. There are a number of sizes available. A higher polarizing current increases the initial amplitude of the decay signal. The higher coil Q will sustain the ringing effect of induced by the decay signal for a longer period of time. The coil inductance should high enough to permit the use of a reasonably valued non-polarized capacitor.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. the coils will be tuned by the addition of a shunt capacitor---perhaps the most important component of all. Also found some taller ones that would provide a coil length of about 3. I found that these use thin walled plastic containers that have encircling ridges at the bottom and just below the lid.

Actual turns count is not critical. 2. Most likely it will take five layers. try making a gasket from bicycle inner tube or similar material. connected in series. The lids may have a paper inner liner that should be discarded. continue winding to complete the final layer. These were connected in series and oriented for minimizing the level of power line harmonics.Notes on Sensor Construction 1.It may be possible to place the 700 turns in four layers. Distilled water. After winding. I found that two identical coils were useful. 4.25 microfarads. 5. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 6 of 14 . for the best signal to noise ratio. However. as subsequent layers are added it becomes more difficult to maintain close spacing. Common isopropyl alcohol will work. 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. kerosene. A coil tuning capacitor for two sensor bottles as shown. Spice bottles are not designed to hold liquids. fill the bottle with a "proton rich" fluid. If needed to stop leaking. methanol have been used. will be about 0. Coil constructed as shown will provide an inductance of about 10 millihenries. If you have 700 turns before reaching the end of the bottle. 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.

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

Vectorboard is difficult to use for a circuit made up entirely of discrete components. The amplifier was built on double sided copper clad PCB material. A push-in type nylon or teflon terminal is used. frequency is shown in the figure below.The theoretical gain vs. The circuit board is housed in a Radio Shack molded project case. 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. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 8 of 14 . The inside of the case is lined with adhesive backed aluminum tape.

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. Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 9 of 14 . However. The tuned circuit formed by the coils and resonating capacitor present a parallel impedance of about 3000 ohms. noise from the sensor coils and external pickup exceed the intrinsic amplifier noise contribution.

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

Three seconds appears to be sufficient. The oscillator circuit is pretty much per CD4060/MC14060 application note. This drives a 4 stage binary counter whose last stage provides a four second high / four second low logic level. The oscillator portion produces an output frequency of 32.1 Hz resolutions using counting intervals much less than one second. ones and tenths Hz. Polarizing current should be applied to the sensing coils for several seconds in order to maximize the amplitude of the precession signal. Measuring the VCO frequency directly ( ahead of the divide by ten counter ) allows resolution to 0. tens . The output of the audio amplifier is a ringing tone at the precession frequency. 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). the signal is competing with ac power line harmonics. the counter should begin sampling immediately after the removal of polarizing current.5 seconds. For simplicity and economy. Measuring the audio amplifier output directly would require a 1 second counting interval to resolve to 1 Hz at the expected relaxation frequency. 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. individual light emitting diodes are used to display the state of the Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 11 of 14 . After removal of the polarizing current the the relay connects the coil(s) to the input of an audio amplifier. This will require the addition of at least one four input NAND gate to decode the counter state (10 count ) and reset the counter. after one second. in the last case. In this case.768 kHz that is applied to a fourteen stage counter.) Timing for polarizing the sensors and measuring frequency is derived from a watch crystal. If the intent is to use the magnetometer in a portable search mode. it would probably be useful to shorten the four second (listen) non polarizing interval to a half second. Also counting should only be done when the signal amplitude is well above the noise level. It eliminates the frequency counter and uses a timer to cycle the polarizing current to the sensor coils on and off. In order to obtain an accurate measurement of the frequency.(There is another circuit shown in a separate segment that is a simpler LISTEN ONLY version. And.1 Hz. One input to the phase detector is the output of the audio amplifier. The final output of the last stage is 2 Hz or a pulse repetition rate of 0. For simplicity.1 Hz. the most significant digit (thousands) overflows the fourth stage of the counter leaving the display of hundreds. A phase locked loop is used to permit measuring the precession frequency to 1 an 0. and 10 seconds to resolve frequency to 0. 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 other input to the phase detector is derived from the voltage controlled oscillator (VCO) whose frequency is divided down by two intervening digital dividers. whose amplitude rapidly decreases into the background noise level. These are the tiny cylindrical units found in some digital wrist watches. a divide by 10 and a divide by 8 in series. in a backyard environment. the signal would have long decayed below amplifier noise or local power line harmonics. Certainly.

seven segment LCD.. The schematic shows four LEDs at the most significant digit. If the intended use is for portable searching.Q and inverted Q. minimizing interconnecting wiring and component count . These will require the addition of the appropriate BCD to segment decoder/drivers or the use of the expensive integrated counter/display ICs. For economy. ) There are many choices to implement this .) Build A Proton Precession Magnetometer Page 12 of 14 .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). monostable multivibrators (one shots) are used to set the decade frequency counter gating and timing intervals. I suspect that it would be desirable to use a decimal display so that changes in the reading may be easily seen.-composite LCD display..decade counter. 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.. 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. Straight decoding would require several multiple input NAND gates as well as inverters ( since the counters do not provide complementary logic outputs. Under stable conditions. etc. (Although just listening to the audio output may be sufficient to detect magnetic anomalies..

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

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