Monday, May 14, 2012

More Huff-n-Puff

I have been working several days, trying to get my Huff-n-Puff circuit to properly control the TCVCXO Oscillator, which is used as the Master Clock replacement for my Propellers.  When I started the experiment, I thought for sure it would be an easy task.

The plan was, to use a one second square wave from a GPS to compare with timing from the Propeller, the output would drive an Double Gang RC circuit, and that would provide a DC voltage to steer the TCVCXO to make the output Frequency as accurate as the received GPS. My goal was to use only passive components.

It worked, but much less than optimal.

For the Passive RC circuit to work correctly, components would have to be optimized:
  • for RC filtering
  • for low input impedance for the Charging Circuit
  • for high output impedance to avoid Discharge
  • yet, for low output impedance to provide drive to the TCVCXO
There were just too many things to consider while trying to make them all work during Startup and Stable Run conditions. I got just enough working to validate the Huff-n-Puff goal, but this circuit was not going to be successful.

To continue this approach, active components would be needed.

My new plan was to introduce two OpAmps, one to sample-n-hold the output from the comparator, a second to provide drive for the TCVCXO. This circuit could be contained within one chip, but I really did not want to build it.

Yet, another approach.

While working with another project (my UI) I had planned to provide control of the Backlight and Beeper Volume via a I2C POT. A simple I2C command sets the POT wiper value - sweet !

The I2C POT that I planned on using was a MCP4018. Late in the UI design and after ordering some parts. I noticed that you can NOT have more than one MCP4018 on a single I2C Bus (What?? only one I2C address??). I had to change the design to Quad I2C POT MCP4441, which contains 4 POTs, plus the chip provides address pins so as many as eight can be used on a single I2C circuit - very nice. My UI circuit design was modified.

Now, while thinking about my Huff-n-Puff problem, it came to me that I could replace all of the above planed active OpAmp circuits with just one MCP4018 I2C POT, that would be controlled by the Propeller (I only need one POT for this test). The POT has wiper value storage and the proper output impedance to drive the TCVCXO, via a simple RC and resister divider circuit (similar to the original passive circuit, but smaller values). The comparing, filtering and tracking will all be done in software - easy to do.

The new I2C POT Huff-n-Puff was installed, and checked with the Bus Pirate. A little change to Propeller SPIN code (and I2C driver) was all that was needed to make the circuit work! The I2C driver needed to be modified because, the MCP4018 does not use internal Register addresses, only one address byte followed by one data byte.


It is now fun to watch the I2C POT adjust the voltage on the TCVCXO to correct the Frequency of the Propeller's Master Clock, and then continue to stay locked onto the GPS. The I2C POT wiper's numerical position is displayed on the LCD.

Tomorrow night I plan to take this new circuit to Jack's Amateur Radio Homebrew Meeting where a Frequency Standard is available and can be compared. I hope this all works as planned. If my calculations are correct, my Propeller Master Clock should now be within +/-50 ppb of GPS Standard Frequency.

I do not expect this effort will do anything to correct inherent PLL jitter, it will only improve the Output Frequency Accuracy.


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