DIY 1GHz Active Probe For Under 20$

So, you’re an electronics hobbyist and want a 1GHz* active probe, or a professional and tired of blowing your 2000$+ active probe in sketchy circuits when all you wanted to know are the whereabouts of some RF-signal?

Then stay with me!!

This Instructable will show you how to build a 1GHz* Fet-based Active Probe, the Fetprobe, for about 10$*, provided you have access to an electronics lab. It is based on an Elektor-magazine article (see the pdf’s addendum, section literature in my thesis) beside some other designs. However, as topic of my bachelor-thesis I wanted to find out how good these designs really are and how far one can push them.

If you go down this road, you need access to a lab that is equipped for some RF-fun, a cheap way for ordering RF-components and some rapid prototyping capabilities. Options some DIY-electronic-aficionados may not have. Although, my Bachelor-thesis comes with a lot of measured performance data, you will get pretty similar results if you stick to this tutorial.

In case you want to learn some more and don’t mind a more scientific approach than have a look at my thesis included as PDF-file in last step.

Equipment needed to build this probe:

  • PCBs (512µm Rogers RO4003 w. 17µm copper dual-sided or similar) based on my gerber files
  • SMD soldering gear and tweezers!!
  • oscilloscope for debugging and testing
  • DC power supply
  • access to RF rated SMD component-kits (caps, resistors, inductors)

Components you need to get:

  • bf998 dual-gate Mosfet(s) SC-61B 4pin
  • RF-Rated 0603 caps around 1pF
  • 10M 0603 resistor (bias)
  • spring-loaded tips often called pogo pins (RF_in and GND)
  • voltage regulator, i.e. LM317LCDR SOIC 8pin
  • SMA or BNC connector (RF_out)

add. Equipment needed to design & develop your own probe:

  • PCB mill, capable of SMD boards 125µm track-gap or similar etching process
  • VNA (Vector Network Analyzer)
  • swiss-army-knife RF software like AWR Microwave Office from National Instruments (layouting, spice-sim, RF-sim)

*: handles 1MHz-500MHz really well, usable up to 1GHz though (if you can accept a bit of dispersion and amplitude error, as shown in the S21-graphs in the last step

**: means you may need a membership in a laboratory, or acquire some people’s affection who do (i.e. via cold beverages). Also, the 20$ price tag suggests you only need to buy the special components, not the standard things which lie around in an RF-lab anyway.

Read more: DIY 1GHz Active Probe For Under 20$

About The Author

Ibrar Ayyub

I am an experienced technical writer holding a Master's degree in computer science from BZU Multan, Pakistan University. With a background spanning various industries, particularly in home automation and engineering, I have honed my skills in crafting clear and concise content. Proficient in leveraging infographics and diagrams, I strive to simplify complex concepts for readers. My strength lies in thorough research and presenting information in a structured and logical format.

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