Not too long ago I reviewed ADI’s wideband PLL synthesizer ADF4351 with integrated low phase noise VCO. The ADF4360 series family of synthesizer chips is very similar. The primary difference is their restricted frequency coverage and thus much lower price.
The ADF4360 is an integrated integer-N synthesizer with an integrated voltage controlled oscillator (VCO). The center frequency is set by external inductors. There are 9 chips in the family with 8 different frequency ranges. The frequency range are as follows:
ADF4360-0: 2400 to 2725 MHz
ADF4360-1: 2050 to 2450 MHz
ADF4360-2: 1850 to 2170 MHz
ADF4360-3: 1600 to 1950 MHz
ADF4360-4: 1450 to 1750 MHz
ADF4360-5: 1200 to 1400 MHz
ADF4360-6: 1050 to 1250 MHz
ADF4360-7: 350 to 1800 MHz
ADF4360-8: 65 to 400 MHz
ADF4360-9: 65 to 400 MHz
Even though the ADF4360-8 and ADF4360-9 have the same frequency range, they are a bit different. The ADF4360-9 has an auxiliary divider with division ranges from 2 to 31 on board. The ADF4360-8 has – just like all other ADF4360 – a hardware power down input (CE).
Analog Devices kindly sent me one of their Evaluation Kits for the ADF4360-9 (EV-ADF4360-9EB1Z) for review and evaluation .
What I intend to use this chip in is called a Fox-Hunt transmitter. It has very little to do with hunting actual foxes and actually relates to a common radio direction finding exercise. The way this works is that a small transmitter (the “fox”) is hidden somewhere and a group of people will attempt to locate the transmitter. Whoever finds the transmitter first, wins the game.
I want to build a very small transmitter for the 2m amateur radio band (~145 MHz) with just a few miliwatts of output power. With such a low power VHF transmitter, a radio direction finding exercise could be conducted in a small area like a park, or even more challenging, with several transmitters at the same time. A microcontroller is supposed to be in charge of setting the frequency and keying the required station identification (call-sign of the control operator) as required by the FCC.
But now back to the ADF4360. The chip has an SPI compatible 3-wire interface, operates between 3 – 3.6 Volts and its inputs are 1.8 V logic compatible. In other words: this chip will interface with pretty much any microcontroller out there. My project will probably be Atmel AVR or MSP430 based and I program in C. However, I will write example code for Arduino (AVR) / Energia (MSP430) for folks who would like to experiment with it more easily.
I looked at the output spectrum of the ADF4360-9 set to 400 MHz on a Teledyne LeCroy HDO6054. The phase frequency detector (PFD) frequency is 200 kHz and you can clearly see spurs 200 kHz spaced to both sides of the carrier. The spurs are smaller than -70 dBc and, to be fair, the ADF4360-9 is not correctly terminated. The IC has a differential output and the datasheet warns that the performance of the output signal may be degraded if not both ports are properly terminated with 50 Ohms. In my case, only one port is fed into the 50 Ohm port of the scope. The other port is open.
In any case, -70 dBc is a lot of attenuation. As a matter of fact, the output signal could be transmitted the way it is over the air. The FCC demands in 74 CFR 97.307 (e) that “the mean power of any spurious emission from a station transmitter or external RF power amplifier transmitting on a frequency between 30 – 225 MHz must be at least 60 dB below the mean power of the fundamental.” This is clearly the case.
The eval board comes with a very comfortable software, just like the ADF4351 did. It is very nice to be able to manipulate all registers and parameters and watch what happens right away.
So what’s next? I will design the circuit, design a PCB, and write the necessary software code for the little VHF tracker (“fox”). The project will be an open hardware project. That means you will be able to use my project free of charge for personal use. As soon as that is done, I will post a new article with the entire project in it. Stay tuned!
Links and Sources:
 ADF4360-9, ADI: http://www.analog.com/