LIGHTNING's "True CB Quad" Antennas » The Birth of the Quad

The Birth of the Quad

History of Cubical Quad as reported by W6SAI and W2LX in “All About Cubical Quad Antennas”, Radio Publications Inc. 1972

In the year 1939 a group of radio engineers from the United States traveled to the South American republic of Ecuador to install and maintain the Missionary Radio Station HCJB, at Quito, high in the Andes mountains. Designed to operate in the 25 meter short-wave broadcast band with a carrier power of 10,000 modulated watts, the mission of HCJB was to transmit the Gospel to the Northern Hemisphere, and to tell of the missionary work in the wilds of Ecuador. To insure the best possible reception of HCJB in the United States a gigantic four element parasitic beam was designed, built and erected with great effort and centered upon the heartland of North America.

The enthusiasm of the engineers that greeted the first transmission of Radio HCJB was dampened after a few days of operation of the station when it became apparent that the four element beam was slowly being destroyed by an unusual combination of circumstances that were not under the control of the worried staff of the station. It was true that the big beam imparted a real “punch” to the signal of HCJB and that listener reports in the path of the beam were high in praise of the signal from Quito. This result had been expected. Totally unexpected, however, was the effect of operating the high-Q beam antenna in the thin evening air of Quito. Situated at 10,000 feet altitude in the Andes, the beam antenna reacted in a strange way to the mountain atmosphere. Gigantic corona discharges sprang full-blown from the tips of the driven element and directors, standing out in mid-air and burning with a wicked hiss and crackle. The heavy industrial aluminum tubing used for the elements of the doomed beam glowed with the heat of the arc and turned incandescent at the tips. Large molten chunks of aluminum dropped to the ground as the inexorable fire slowly consumed the antenna.

The corona discharges were so loud and so intense that they could be seen and heard singing and burning a quarter-mile away from the station. The music and programs of HCJB could be clearly heard through the quiet night air of the city as the r-f energy gave fuel to the crowns of fire clinging to the tips of the antenna elements. The joyful tones of studio music were transformed into a dirge of doom for the station unless an immediate solution to the problem could be found.

It fell to the lot of Clarence C. Moore, W9LZX, one of the engineers of HCJB to tackle this problem. It was obvious to him that the easily ionized air at the two mile elevation of Quito could not withstand the high voltage potentials developed at the tips of the beam elements. The awe-inspiring (to the natives) corona discharges would probably disappear if it were possible to operate HCJB at a sea level location. This, however, was impossible. The die was cast, and HCJB was permanently settled in Quito.

What to do? Moore attacked the problem with his usual energy. He achieved a partial solution by placing six-inch diameter copper balls obtained from sewage flush tanks on the tips of each element. An immediate reduction in corona trouble was noted, but the copper orbs detuned the beam, and still permitted a nasty corona to spring forth on the element tips in damp weather. Clearly the solution to the problem lay in some new, different approach to the antenna installation. The whole future of HCJB and the Evangelistic effort seemed to hinge upon the solution of the antenna problem. The station could not be moved, and the use of a high-gain beam antenna to battle the interference in the crowded 25 meter international short-wave broadcast band was mandatory. It was distressingly apparent to Moore that the crux of the matter was at hand.

The Birth of the Quad

In the words of W9LZX, the idea of the Quad antenna slowly unfolded to him, almost as a Divine inspiration. “We took about one hundred pounds of engineering reference books with us on our short vacation to Posoraja, Ecuador during the summer of 1942, detrmined that with the help of God we could solve our problem. There on the floor of our bamboo cottage we spread open all the reference books we had brought with us and worked for hours on basic antenna design. Our prayers must have been answered, for gradually as we worked the vision of a quad-shaped antenna gradually grew with the new concept of a loop antenna having no ends to the elements, and combining relatively high transmitting impedance and high gain.”

A Quad antenna with reflector was hastily built and erected at HCJB in the place of the charred four element beam. Warily, the crew of tired builders watched the new antenna through the long operating hours of the station. The vigil continued during the evening hours as the jungle exhaled its moisture collected during the hot daylight hours. The tension of the onlookers grew as a film of dew collected on the antenna wires and structure, but not once did the new Quad antenna flash over or break into a deadly corona flame, even with the full modulated power of the Missionary station applied to the wires. The problem of corona discharge seemed to be solved for all time.

The new Quad antenna distinguished itself in a short time with the listeners of HCJB. Reports flooded the station, attesting to the efficiency of the simple antenna and the strength of the signal. In his spare time, Moore built a second Quad antenna, this one to be used in the 20 meter band at his ham station, HC1JB, in Quito.

At a later date, after Moore had returned to the United States, he applied for a patent covering the new antenna. the fact that the Quad-type antenna radiated perpendicular to the plane of the loop was deemed by the Patent Office to be of sufficient importance to permit the issuance of a patent to Clarence C. Moore covering the so-called Cubical Quad antenna.

To understand the characteristics of the antenna, it is convenient to borrow the description of the Quad element given by W9LZX – “a pulled-open folded dipole.”

This interesting account is taken from William I. Orr’s book, “All about Cubical Quad Antennas”. In it, technical details are addressed at length. However, there are only two pages devoted to the four element, full sized quad. Orr calls it the “Monster Quad”.