the forbidden mountain dew

This is a post about transmitter juice.

Seen here – the sight glass and automatic air vent at the high point of the system.


Until today I never gave too much thought to this cooling system, and it seems I should have done so more often as it was sitting there at zero pressure. Yikes. In fact… its pressure had gone so low that the janky little pressure gauges were doing this.

 

I have no idea how it managed to slip around to the wrong side of the pin, but it’s a really garbage tier gauge so I guess that’s no surprise.

 

Refilling the system is a matter of just opening the vent caps on the air vent valves, admitting fresh coolant to the system via that tap on the pump suction side, and creating backpressure in the system by closing the suction side valve partially. This causes backpressure to build up in the system and compress the air bladder inside that tank while making the pump draw more coolant in from the source. Once it’s run for a while you can close the vent caps on the valves so they don’t, uh—

yeah I wonder if this is why and where the pressure all got out — all the vent caps were open, and, ew

 

The instruction manual on this GatesAir system states that you don’t really need to worry about overfilling it because that spring loaded relief valve will lift and burp out the excess if it gets over the maximum of 75 PSI.

Both of the two transmitter cabinets in this installation have their own cooling system, and there’s a third for the glycol solution cooled RF loads. That one’s holding its pressure just fine.

 

Now for… uh… cursed things

NFT: Non Flushable Toilet

Speaking of toilets— it was time to give amplifier #3 on the Space Station Toilet a new Barnstead filter. As I experienced previously, touching anything on the Barnstead led to leaking as the shrunken hardened gaskets started crumbling. I think I’d kinda vaguely alluded in a previous post to this filter holder unit having hilariously cursed input and output connectors, but I hadn’t gotten good pictures of the thing. I had, however, looked all over Thermo Fisher’s catalogs and webpage trying to find the proper gaskets for this thing and could never find the same series of connectors. Their current models of the Barnstead filter holders do not use this same stuff. This raises the question of which of the two is true:

1) Thermo Fisher switched suppliers for their filter holder assemblies at some point in time, the new manufacturer uses a different system, and they do not have parts in stock for the old system.
2) Thermo Fisher has realized this old system is complete garbage and does not even want to admit to having ever made it.

I’m leaning towards 2. Without further ado, here’s… this thing. The fitting can swivel a bit, but doing so tends to lift the two pins out. You can see their heads here.

Removing the pins releases the connection completely.

Looking down the bore at the weird gasket:

And finally, the connector itself, with BIG RAUNCHY MOLD MARKS THAT JUST MAKE LIFE DIFFICULT:

 

YUCKY STUFF AHEAD

So my coworkers had told me in the past about some kind of “carbon” that tended to circulate in the system on this transmitter, likely contributing to how it lays waste to the cooling water flow sensors. I was a little baffled, where would this come from? This system is just supposed to be full of PURE deionized water to maintain proper electrical resistivity and not clog things up. Well then, uh—

Imagine my amazement and horror when I dropped the Barnstead filter housing down and just saw it fill up with this inky yackage.

I poured it into a clear plastic water bottle for inspection. It looks like diluted India ink, and thankfully, smells like nothing. Coarse particles settled to the bottom, but even after sitting a couple hours, not everything settles out. I’m wondering if this is the result of the Barnstead filter just releasing small activated charcoal particles when the water flow stopped and reversed a moment, or if that’s really just… floating around in there. If so, where is all that coming from? Ew ew ew ewwwwwwwwwwwww

Greetings from the clouds…

AMazing!

These photos are from fellow engineer Chris Hall. The owner of an AM station reached out to him for advice after a contractor from two states away rebuilt the transmitter facility and it just wouldn’t make power. Wonder why? What’s the dielectric strength of a Mason jar? Which parts went Exxon Valdez in there?

My experience with AM antenna systems is limited but I can say that I would not trust even a single component in this ATU – it’s probably all been compromised by excessive voltage, current, and, uh, mechanical abuse, fire, and overheating. Call up Kintronic Labs, ask for a quote….

How do you do that to a poor innocent vacuum variable cap?! I mean uhhhhhhhhh. What. I’m guessing the voltage flew off the handle when it ran far off resonance, I can’t even fathom which part would have failed first, or maybe if the contractor just tried to bring up full power with the Vise-Grips not clamped on or okay that’s it I’m done I can’t even. This is why I like coming up at the lowest possible power first if in doubt….

Brutal….ist

Potentially unpopular opinion: I’ve always been fond of Brutalist architecture.

I grew up with a lot of it abundant in the South Florida area where it could be really nice when done right (notably, when concrete was WELL sealed, and humidity buildup was prevented). Some of the structures were pretty damn cool and had things like well sheltered indoor plazas that managed to make an open-air building in Florida heat still comfortable to use.

So… needless to say… I was very amused by this concept, and I never thought I’d say this phrase like, ever—

Brutalist self-storage facility.

There’s a U-Haul building in Roseville, California, that was built in an old hospital. I haven’t found details on when it was originally constructed, but wow it’s Brutalist all right. It had been a hospital until Sutter Health sold it in 1998. It had been a Sierra College campus for a while, was bought by a Bay Area development company and redeveloped in 2014-2017(?) to become an office/school complex, but I guess the demand was low for such at the time. Most of the interior was bashed out, revealing the GLORIOUS CONCRETE… but it still has…..

Stained glass window
Stained glass mini-storage window. Because. Fnord.

…this. It’s actually entirely perplexing – look above the window. I suspect it was probably added while the building was a college, otherwise, the poured concrete probably would have been formed for it directly. Weird, right?

Some of this may have been later construction – it doesn’t match the style

The silly thing about this, of course, is that if this had been a 1970s building, the orange would have been right in place!!! The white walls might have wound up brown, though.

Pictures taken from an old real estate portal listing:

The elevator shaft/mechanical core of the building was built in a way as to look SUPREMELY WEIRD… you know, as you do.

It looks a bit like what you’d get if you flattened the sides of Doofenschmirtz Evil Incorporated. Yes you heard that jingle in your head too.

It’s kinda awesomely cool that U-Haul reuses buildings when possible instead of just buying those weird knock-together storage barns. The one where I ran into the bad case of Truckwall was a former bakery.

Fixing the Space Station Toilet (Harris PowerCD)

A couple weeks ago I was at the tower making bad jokes about the liquid cooled EEV ESCIOT tube based Harris PowerCD transmitter being a space station toilet.

Really, it’s a three stall restroom, and today I got all three flushing again… and learned more about how freaking weird and scary *pure* deionized water can be.

First, here’s a questionable explanation of what’s in there. You’re looking at two separate liquid cooling loops. The external one which exits the cabinet at upper left circulates an ethylene glycol coolant solution (similar to automotive antifreeze, but nigh unobtainable outside of ordering it off Shamazon) between the heat sources and a set of fan cooled radiators outdoors. It’s circulated by an external pump station. I marked its flow with the orange arrow emojis. The internal one has a pump in the cabinet as it’s a closed loop within. The vertical accordion looking piece is a heat exchanger. Attached to the door on the left are two filters that keep the deionized (DI) water as pure as possible to keep its electrical resistivity high.

The supply manifold at the top sends the anode and collector water jacket water supplies to the tube cart around the front. The small line coming out the middle feeds the filters; you can set their flow rate with a valve up there. Everything finally returns to the pipe at the left that sends the DI water back to the reservoir on top. Now, have you noticed the middle finger emojis yet? Well.

Meet the Pinwheel of Despair.

In the DI water returns from the anode and collector are these Seametrics flow sensors. The pinwheel has magnets in two opposing vanes, and a Hall effect sensor screws into the recess seen at the bottom here. By measuring the interval between pulses, the transmitter controls can determine if there’s enough water flow… until the sensor breaks.

Now let me say this, I see absolutely nothing wrong with the design and build of the Seametrics sensor. It’s actually damn cool for what it is. No metal parts contact the working fluid, and it rides on a ceramic shaft and ruby bearings like a fine watch movement (and that wouldn’t even have ceramic shafts… Or would it?)

The Seametrics is even completely field rebuildable!

So, uh, time to be creeped out and amazed by mere water. In the picture of the cabinet you’ll see there’s one more sensor mounted horizontally in the glycol line. This never fails, as the glycol solution has some lubricity to it – that is to say it’s slick and forms a film that tends to isolate facing surfaces from direct contact, just like an oil would. The DI water, however…. No. When I got some on my hands, it felt really weird, almost more like I’d just rubbed them with a really cheap and nasty hand sanitizer that was stripping the oils and leaving behind sticky yackage. So let’s see what it does to those extremely hard, smooth bearings:

Hey wait a minute, that notch wasn’t there from the factory!
Unhappy Calamari

The bore of the bearing above has become egg shaped. This wasn’t even the worst one — that distinction goes to the one that was in the collector flow meter:

Escaaaaaapppeeee

I wasn’t able to pull this one apart for further inspection but didn’t need to. You can see the axle right through the plastic — it chewed completely through the ruby bearing and started digging into the plastic. Funny thing was this one would work perfectly UNTIL the water temp rose to about 46 degrees C when I put the cabinet in Beam On (normal RF output state), at which point it’d abruptly start ticking down from 12.6 GPM to 10 and the controls would kick the beam supply off to avoid meltdown. After rebuilding both sensors on the DI water side, the flow readings come up the moment the pump starts and stay stable.

This is either success or impending zeeky boogy doog
And SUCCESS
now don’t tempt me to try to fix that old radar too

Want to read more about how damn weird pure water is? There’s a somewhat sensationalized (in their usual style and don’t even get me started on that Supermicro fiasco) article from Business Insider about the Super Kamiokande which is a massive subterranean neutrino detector tank lined with the stuff that physicists have had to enter on a rubber boat for maintenance. Just imagining what that’d feel like across a large area of skin makes me want to go rub an Aloe Vera leaf on my entire body.

Really it can kinda be summed up by this poor Chia Bob Ross that doesn’t look much like a Happy Little Tree. Fnord.

From a distant time

Transmitter sites used to be kinda different – it was not uncommon for them to be manned daily, if not outright equipped with an engineer in residence. Now they just tend to have weird ghosts and stuff. I’ve only ever seen the name O’keefe & Merritt on appliances in old transmitter site kitchens. Ok then?

Shitpost #3141592

In honor of whoever the holder of mysterious Dogecoin whale account is having made deposits of 420, 69, 420.69, and 3.141592 coins just to show off. (who the hell are you?)

Today I found out this mysterious BK Dynascan component tester/curve tracer was also sold as the Polar T-1000 or T-1200 so I finally have a manual! Woo.

And with the posting of Milkwalker, I dedicate the rest of this to shitposts and random memes.

Read more “Shitpost #3141592”

How cold did this even get??

I keep staring at this photo someone sent me on Facebook in amazement and confusion:


I’m a little confused as to whether this is from a weep water system slowly running water through the lines to avoid freeze damage between the equipment room and the gantry, or if it actually attempted a wash cycle at like… -20F or something… and just became a giant aesthetically pleasing mass of colorful ice. Either way, it’s beautiful, but not very useful until temperatures rise and possibly a few blown out hoses get changed.