DIY capacitor leakage tester nestled among neighbours all mounted underneath a shelf

DIY Capacitor Leakage Tester With A Professional Finish

[Manuel Caldeira] has built a nice electronics work area that would be the envy of many, complete with an under-shelf rail of custom-built instruments that are specific to the needs of areas of electronics that [Manuel] is involved with. The highlighted project here is a capacitor leakage tester, which is very handy for sorting through piles of old parts looking for anything still within spec, or just verifying a part on a board is the culprit you suspect it is.

The thing is, certain types of capacitors have a limited life both in operation and in storage. Usually, we’re talking about electrolytics here, where the electrolyte solution can leak out or dry out, but also the passive oxide layer on the anode plate can deteriorate if the device is left unpowered for long periods — the oxide disintegrates, and the capacitor will start to leak current. Eventually, the breakdown can be bad enough for the capacitor to conduct so well that it overheats and the result can be a surprisingly violent experience. So, if you deal with capacitors a lot, especially electrolytics, then a leakage tester is a very good instrument to own.

We like [Manuel]’s construction method here, with custom PCBs nestled inside a simple bent aluminium enclosure. No need for a top or sides, as these, are intended to bolt underneath a shelf, and butt up against their neighbor. The front panel graphics are done in a simple but very effective manner, using printable sticker sheets, with a clear adhesive over-sheet. They certainly have a professional finish, and this is definitely a construction method worth considering.

For those a little unfamiliar with this important component, why not leap into some theory with this handy dive into the simple parallel plate capacitor? Next, may we suggest a little overview of the different capacitor types and how to best make use of them?

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Hackaday Journal Completes First Review Process, Seeks More Submissions

Congratulations and thank you go to Theodore Yapo for authoring the first paper to complete the peer review process for the Hackaday Journal. You can read the standalone paper here; it will be included in the first volume of the Hackaday Journal officially released later this year.

The Hackaday Journal is an open access, peer reviewed journal that seeks to ensure hard-won domain knowledge is preserved and made available for the benefit of all. Before jumping into Ted’s topic, please take a moment to consider submitting your own paper for the journal.

Paper Submissions Wanted

We have other submissions in the pipleline now but we still need more papers to round out the first volume of the Hackaday Journal. Please consider authoring a paper on any creative research, engineering, or entertaining discovery in the areas of interest to the Hackaday community. The full name of our journal is the Hackaday Journal of What You Don’t Know — it will be a tome of infinite appeal to any who seek to broaden their minds in the engineering space. But for that to happen we need you to share your knowledge.

We are in an age of unparalleled opportunity for individuals and small teams to make interesting discovery. You should not need to be working on a degree to have your findings published, but of course students and faculty are encouraged to submit their papers. Do not hesitate to get in touch with us about topics you want to write about.

Scalar Network Analyzer Leakage Correction by Theodore Yapo

Low-pass filter being tested by a Rigol DSA-815 using the phase shifting correction technique

The title of Ted’s paper is a mouthful and the subject material wades into radio frequency knowledge with gusto. We applaud him, and the peer reviewers, for the attention to detail while moving toward publication.

In his work, Ted finds an interesting opportunity to get more performance out of relatively inexpensive bench equipment used to characterize RF components. This task is often reserved for Vector Network Analyzers (VNA) but with a heafty price tag these tools aren’t available to everyone. Spectrum Analyzers with Tracking Generators (SA/TG) have come onto the market, but especially with early versions, there is a leakage problem that causes inaccuracy. Ted found a simple technique that can correct for the leakage.

The solution is based on phase shifting the measurement. Starting with a properly calibrated machine, Ted uses a small board he built to electronically shift the phase of the Tracking Generator where the leakage is a problem. The signal is first measured, then measured again with a phase shift of 180 degrees. This effectively cancels out the error while preserving the signal being measured.

This paper goes into great technical detail in the RF domain. It is worth noting that the Hackaday Journal is open to discovery on multiple topics and levels of complexity. Don’t let what you think is a simple, useful idea go unpublished. We’re interested in a wide range of the simple, the obscure, and the frighteningly technical as long as the ideas of both novel and well supported.

This is Your Journal

You, yes you reading this right now, embody a movement of inventive and curious people working both inside and outside of formal academic structures. This is our time to contribute to the knowledge base of humanity. Pour yourself a refreshing beverage, saddle up your headphones, crack those knuckles, and let the writing process begin. Let us now what we don’t know. Submit your paper now.