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Helical Resonator Design for Filters

Click to view detailsClick to view details on RF Design Guide: Systems, Circuits, and EquationsHelical resonator dimensions - RF CafeThere is a frequency region between around 600 MHz and 1500 MHz where the self-resonant frequencies of discrete components make filter design very difficult, and where the physical dimensions of transmission lines and cavity filters are too large for practical implementation.

One of the most prominent ISM bands (900 MHz) falls squarely in the middle of the region. Thanks to the wireless revolution, there are a plethora of SAW and dielectric filters available for the 840 – 980 MHz band, but that is about it, and they are only rated for relatively low powers (maybe 20 dBm). Helical filters fill that gap nicely, and are a combination of all three formats.

Helical resonator dimensions - square shield - RF Cafe      Helical resonator dimensions - circular shield - RF Cafe

Like cavity filters, the Q of the helical resonators is very high if constructed properly. That is because at the frequencies of operation, the skin thickness is getting very small and most of the current is flowing on the surfaces. Plating the cavity walls and helix with a high conductivity material increases the Q even more that bare of tinned copper.

Helical resonator chart, d=2.0 cm, Z=50 ohms - RF Cafe

Zverev was the first to publicly publish the equations for helical filter design (link to book on Amazon). While the book goes into more detail, the basics of those equations are replicated here, and should serve as a good enough springboard to get you going on a design. I actually worked with, but did not design, a multi-cavity helical filter as part of a transmitter for a remote utility meter reading transponder back in the early 1990s, produced by Itron. Choosing shield and helix sizes is largely an iterative task once you know what the resonant frequency for each cavity will be.

Helical resonator chart, d=1.0 cm, Z=50 ohms - RF Cafe

Sorry, but I do not have equations for the tuning slug's diameter or how it affects the resonant frequency as it is advanced into the helix. A wag would be that if the outside diameter of the tuning slug is very close to the inside diameter of the helix, then the resonant frequency is modified as if the total height of the helix and shield are shorter than when the tuning slug is fully retracted.

Helical resonator chart, d=0.5 cm, Z=50 ohms - RF Cafe

The graphs illustrate how the equations are affected when the diameter of the helix, d, is varied. Notice that the wire diameter, g, increases with frequency so that an adjustment of the helix diameter, d, is needed to keep the wire size and space between the turns reasonable.

Design Equations
RF Cafe - Helical resonator equation

RF Cafe - Helical resonator equation

RF Cafe - Helical resonator equation

RF Cafe - Helical resonator equation

RF Cafe - Helical resonator equation

When the resonator is entirely filled with a dielectric, these parameters are substituted as shown here:
Helical resonator equation - RF Cafe

Helical resonator equation - RF Cafe

Helical resonator equation - RF Cafe

d = Mean helix diameter (cm)

C = Inside diameter of circular shield (cm)

S = Length of square shield side (cm)

H = Height of shield (cm)

f = Resonant frequency (MHz)

Q = Unloaded Q of an air-filled resonator

Qd = Unloaded Q of a dielectric-filled resonator

N = Number of turns on helix

p = Helix pitch (turns/cm)

Z0 = Characteristic impedance of air-filled helical transmission line (Ω)

Zd = Characteristic impedance of dielectric-filled helical transmission line (Ω)

g = Wire diameter and also space between turns (cm)tan(δ) = Loss tangent of dielectric material

Helical resonator - RF Cafe

Example of a commercial Helical Filter by Toko Type 5CHW,  450 MHz

Helical resonator - RF Cafe

Custom 7:1 Helical Filter Assembly "High Performance Helical Resonator Filters" by Ming Yu and Van Dokas

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RF Cafe began life in 1996 as "RF Tools" in an AOL screen name web space totaling 2 MB. Its primary purpose was to provide me with ready access to commonly needed formulas and reference material while performing my work as an RF system and circuit design engineer. The World Wide Web (Internet) was largely an unknown entity at the time and bandwidth was a scarce commodity. Dial-up modems blazed along at 14.4 kbps while tying up your telephone line, and a nice lady's voice announced "You've Got Mail" when a new message arrived...

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