Photovoltaic Cells In LTSpice

We like to build things using real parts. But we do think the more you can model using tools like LTSpice, the less time you can spend going down dead ends. If you need to model a common component like a resistor or even an active device, most simulators have great models and you can tweak them to have realistic parasitic effects. But what if the component you want isn’t in the library or doesn’t have the fidelity you want? [FesZ] wanted to model photovoltaic cells and had to build his own model. The resulting two videos are well worth watching.

Building your own models in Spice isn’t necessarily very difficult. However, knowing exactly what to add to model different real-world effects can be challenging. The videos do a good job of showing how to mutate a simple diode into one that produces current when exposed to light.

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LTSpice Tips And A Long Tutorial

We always enjoy videos from [FesZ], so when we saw his latest about tips and tricks for LTSpice, we decided to put the 20 minutes in to watch it. But we noticed in the text that he has an entire series of video tutorials about LTSpice and that this is actually episode 30. So there’s plenty to watch.

Like any tips and tricks video, you might know some of them and you may not care about some of them — for example, the first one talks about setting the colors which is a highly personal preference.  But it is a good bet you’ll find something to like in the video.

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Class A Amplifiers, Virtually

If you didn’t know better, you might think the phrase “class A amplifier” was a marketing term to help sell amplifiers. But it is, of course, actually a technical description of an amplifier that doesn’t distort the input waveform because it doesn’t depend on multiple elements to handle different areas of the input waveform. Want to know more? [FesZ] has a new video covering the basics of class A amplifiers including some great simulations. You can see the video below.

A class A amplifier uses a transistor that is always biased on. It never saturates or switches off. This is good for linearity, but not always the best for efficiency so there are other classes of amplifiers, too. However, for many applications, class A is the most common configuration.

There are a number of trade-offs involved with each type of amplifier and [FesZ] covers them in detail. But the real interesting part is the simulations in Spice. Sure, you can build the circuits and look at everything with a meter or scope, but using Spice is much handier.

There is a second video upcoming. We hope he covers other amplifier types too, as you really do want to understand the differences when you need to design something. If you want more Spice stuff, check out some of our previous posts. If for some reason, you don’t like LTSpice, there’s always Micro-Cap 12.

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Impedance Matching Revisited

If you are an old hand at RF design, you probably have a good handle on matching impedance. However, if you are just getting started with RF, [FesZ Electronic]’s latest video series on lossless impedance matching is well worth watching.

Matching is important for several reasons. Maximum power transfer occurs when the source and load impedance match. Also, at RF, mismatched impedance can cause reflections which, again, robs you of useful power. The video covers some math and then moves on to LTSpice to simulate a test circuit. But the part you are really waiting for — the practical circuits — is about 15 minutes in. Since the values you need are often oddball, [FesZ] makes his own adjustable inductors and uses a trimmer capacitor to adjust the actual capacitance value.

This is a big topic, but the first video is a great introduction blending theory, simulation, and hands-on. A great way to get started with a very fundamental RF design skill.

We’ve worked on explaining all this before if you want a second take on it. If you want to understand why mismatched impedance leads to less power delivery, we’ve done that, too.

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EMC Tutorial Puts You In The Loop

A student once asked his lab instructor why his amplifier was oscillating. After looking at it and noting the wild construction, the instructor remarked, “A better question would be why shouldn’t it oscillate?” The truth of it is, our circuits generate noise and especially if they are oscillating anyway. Distortion and nonlinearities generate harmonics and other component imperfections also contribute.

[FesZ Electronics] has a great video series about noise in switching power supplies and the latest talks about the hot loop. If you want to improve the noise performance of your next design, these videos are well worth watching. You can see the hot loop video below.

We really liked the homebrew noise probes. In addition to real-world probing. The video also observes circuit operation under simulation. Even if you don’t care about noise performance, there’s a lot of good information about basic switching power supply design here.

You can see the difference in a PCB that has a small hot loop versus a very small hot loop. Something to think about next time you are laying out a power supply board.

If you want to dive deeper into noise simulation, we have a good read on that for you. Or ditch simulation, and make your own cheap probe with an SDR dongle.

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Phasors In LTSpice

[Ted] recently demonstrated the analysis of an RL circuit using a piece of paper, Octave, and LTSpice. If you prefer, the Octave code should work fine in MATLAB, as well. If you are looking to get serious about electronic theory this is a reasonably simple case and is a good chance to get a workout with some of the tools.

We like the approach because too often it is easy to just use the computer and not pick up the understanding that you get when working through a problem by hand. You do need to understand complex numbers, but, overall, the math isn’t too hairy.

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Custom Components In LTSpice

If you enjoy simulating circuits, you’ve probably used LTSpice. The program has a lot of powerful features we tend to not use, including the ability to make custom components that are quite complex. To illustrate how it works, [asa pro] builds a potentiometer component that is not only a good illustration but also a useful component.

The component is, of course, just two resistors. However, using parameters, the component gets two values, a total resistance and a percentage. Then the actual resistance values adjust themselves.

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