Tag Archives: EMI

Review: Grundig Mini400 AM/FM/SW Radio as ESD/EMI Detector

I recently upgraded my old Radio Shack AM radio, which I used for ESD detection, for the Grundig (Eton) Mini400 AM/FM/SW pocket radio. This $30 (street price) pocket-sized radio (4.25 x 2.75 x .5 inch) seems to have plenty of sensitivity to nearby ESD events. By tuning off-station, you can clearly hear the “clicking” from the ESD from several feet away. Using one of these radios is handy for correlating random product glitches with possible ESD events.

Grundig Mini400

I’m also finding it’s quite useful in locating low frequency switch mode power supply (SMPS) EMI. The shortwave bands are especially sensitive to this noise. For example, the CFL and newer LED lamps each have a SMPS built in to their bases. The multitude of these lamps in homes today can create a cacophony of EMI well above the shortwave spectrum. This is a real issue for amateur radio operators and those who enjoy radio astronomy.

The radio has an analog tuner with digital display. It runs on a pair of AAA cells and seems to have plenty of audio. It also comes with a padded case with belt loop. The only caution I might point out is that the power switch is a momentary button, which could get pressed inadvertently if pressed during shipping or if packed tightly in your troubleshooting kit. The radio does have a “Lock” switch on the side that disables the power button, so that ought to alleviate that issue. You just have to remember to unlock the radio prior to use.

Frequency ranges:

AM: 517 to 1782 kHz (1 kHz steps)

SW1: 5.700 to 10.380 (5 kHz steps)

SW2: 11.600 to 18.450 (5 kHz steps)

FM: 85.8 to 108.7 MHz (0.1 MHz steps)

I bought mine from Radio Shack for $40, but you can find one on Amazon.com for $30. Recommended.

Interference from LED traffic lights and large “jumbotron”-type signs

I’m starting to receive more field reports from EMC (and other) engineers regarding the radiated emissions from LED-based traffic lights and especially from the large “jumbotron”-style LED-matrixed signs and billboards.

The LED traffic lights typically emit broadband interference, which covers the AM broadcast band within 100 feet, or so, and the larger LED signs emit harmonics well up into the UHF bands. One of my colleagues just helped resolve an issue with one of those giant signs that was interfering with an established 3G microcell in a nearby hotel. Then, just a couple days ago, I ran into a report out of Sweden regarding interference to aircraft communications from a large advertising billboard sign located near the Trollhättan-Vänersborg Airport. This was reported by the National Electrical Safety Board via their www.elsakerhetsverket.se web site.

The following is a translation of the Swedish text. While not a perfect translation, I think you’ll get the gist.

In December, the National Electrical Safety Board decision on prohibition of two billboards at Trollhättan-Vänersborg Airport, which posed a serious threat to flight safety. Measures have been taken and the interference is not currently a pressing problem.

On 16 December, the National Electrical Safety Board decision on prohibition of two hoardings sending out radio signals due to flaws in the design. The decision was made because the air traffic radio communications were disrupted during takeoff and landing. Disturbed radio communications can call from the airport or from another aircraft missed.

Troubleshooting underway

Using ban was lifted after the disturbance moved to another frequency that does not interfere with aviation radio communications. Safety Board has presented the company to correct the interference, and the provider is working to resolve the issue.

While the manufacturer claims to be troubleshooting the problem, all they did to initially resolve the interference to aircraft communications was to shift the sign’s clock frequency slightly, moving the interfering harmonics sufficiently out of the aircraft band. So, I can’t help but wonder what the harmonics are interfering with now?

Apparently, the current emission standard for lighting, IEC/EN 55015 excludes LEDs and is being revised to correct this. I guess it was thought LED lighting technology was more passive as far as interference goes. However, today’s industrial lighting designs use multiple switching power converters operating with very fast edge speeds (for efficiency) and in the 100’s of kHz, creating broadband emissions out to 200 MHz, or more. As LED lighting continues to take hold over other forms of illumination, interference reports like these are bound to proliferate. For those of you working in the lighting industry, this is a “heads up”!

Unusual EMI Sources

These unusual EMI sources may be used to perform pre-compliance testing (radiated or conducted immunity) to help determine the immunity characteristics of your circuits or product.

1. Chattering Relay (120VAC powered) – can produce strong broadband emissions all the way out to at least 1 GHz.


2. 3 VDC Motor – produces strong emissions out to about 750 MHz.

3V Motor 1

3. Pocket Plasma – produces broadband frequencies up to 10 MHz.


Click here for more details…

EMC Archive at T&M World Now On-Line

Martin Rowe, Sr. Editor of Test & Measurement World, recently collected over 80 EMC-related blog posts and articles published in the last several years and has placed them all into a single location in the T&M World “Vault”. Look for “EMC EMI RFI ESD“.

Check them out!