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Microwave Mortuary 2007

Have you ever thrown a shopping cart out of a convertible at 80 mph to observe the sparks? How about hooking up a power amplifier to 115 volts AC just to see how it craters? Your fellow engineers have done these things and more! If you have a great picture of totally destroyed hardware, or a photo of a blown circuit, send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. If it gets on the web site you will receive a free Microwaves101 key chain pocket knife! Impress your friends, if not your boss!

New for January 2013: the mortuary has now been separated by year, as we have had a few complaints about how long it takes to load. But maybe it is time some of you considered a better broadband connection to the internet?

Note to mortuary contributors: please consider that your boss may not find your submission in the best interests of your Big Company. Lately we've been getting a lot of "please remove my submission" emails, try not to send us anything that you might regret.

Note to Big Companies: Don't blame us for posting your spectacular failures, we only post what your employees send us. On the other hand, please don't rip off Microwaves101 pictures for presentations without permission, that's bad manners. Maybe it's time for some training!

Note to mortuary fans: We put new stuff here at the top, but older disasters are still here too--just scroll down.In many cases, if you click on pictures on this page you can see higher resolution images.


New for December 2007! This just in from Pat:

Please see the attached photo for the mortuary. Failure analysis: component has seen an over-current. Overcurrents may happen when you apply 50kV across a device that typically sees 500V. This was operator error. Also, I am looking into making the enclosure squirrel tight after viewing other postings. The IGBT is an amazing device that compliments the power switch tube, just don't push either to 100X their rating. From a technical note it would seem that current is free in a solid state device and voltage is expensive. The vacuum electron device (tube) has free high voltage and expensive current. I really like your website, it reminds me of RF Cafe before all the advertising.


New for October 2007! The following four photos came in from Alex, from across the pond.

1. A colleague, whilst on his honeymoon in Cork, Ireland, was confused as to why the TV picture in their B&B was so bad. Wishing to investigate further (being an RF engineer) he followed the cable to discover it led outside of the room window. He peered outside to find this fine example of an Irish “lossless” TV signal splitter:

(Note to viewers: the above reference could perhaps be construed as a slur against the great people of Ireland. We don't want anyone to think we're insensitive here at Microwaves101, indeed, one of the principals of M101 came from a "two-toilet Irish" neighborhood near Boston before she married above herself! - UE)


Note to readers: the following photo might just be the best one on the page, and for sure it will be downloaded and pasted into ESD training manuals all over the world. Just remember where you found it and give Alex (and Microwaves101) credit!

2. An ESD inspector had kittens when he found this high-isolation ESD lead attached to a bench grounding point!

New for September 2007! Here's two photos submitted by Mark. Don't look at the second photo right before lunch. Here's the story:

I work at a C-band shuttle tracking facility at KSC (Kennedy Space Center). After a launch and several weeks of downtime, we went back to the site to bring up the system. Everything booted up nicely but the pull-out keyboard and monitor did not work. We unscrewed the top of the flip-up keyboard and monitor assembly and WHOA!
A real nice stench and a whole lot of dead mice… not to mention some circuit board problems.

Here's the toe-tagged hardware that was acting up...

and here's what's going on inside. Gnarly! Next call the Orkin Man, or do it yourself, before you call Tech Support. Click on the photo for a higher resolution image if you like.

In case you were wondering where the nest material came from...

There's a few more photos of this mess, if anyone's interested just ask!

New for September 2007! These photos came from Iraq, by way of Steve. These are two dishes at a Forward Operating Base in the Baghdad area. No, Dick Cheney was not hunting in the area, instead they were clobbered by debris from a 107mm rocket that impacted the corner of the rooftop (the 3rd picture). Here's some excerpts from one of Steve's emails:
There was a note in our orientation papers about knives, saying something to the effect of, "you only need a pocket knife. If the enemy has gotten past the walls, concertina wire, armed guards and machine guns, and through all the armed personnel walking around base, a bowie knife isn't going to help." I don't care. I take an Applegate-Fairbairn with me in my travel bag every time I get on a helicopter and it makes me happy.I'm on Camp Liberty which is one of the several bases built around the Baghdad airport. It's fairly civilized, you wouldn't guess we were at war sometimes, at least until a rocket lands a couple hundred yards away. It's godawfully dusty, the dirt turns into talcum powder an inch thick in some places. A few of Saddam's old palaces are built out here, so we have a few lakes and some interesting architecture to look at, not all of them are bombed out so that's kind of cool, I need to get into some of them and crawl around. Rumor has it that if you go to the no-man's land between base and the public side of the airport, you can get all sorts of things -- cars, guns, etc. I need to find out more about this. Spare parts are interesting. Get what you can, when you can and preferably two of them is the rule of thumb. I work with Raytheon, and they do a pretty nice job of keeping us in stock with what we need. Praise the lord for e-commerce and shipping to APO addresses, we can mail order just about anything we want so that's pretty cool.

Click on Steve's photos to see full-sized images!


New for July 2007! These photos came from Stephen from Pennsylvania. This is what happens when you run 1kW at S-Band through your stripline hybrid coupler. Don't try this at home unless you do it in waveguide. Hmm, maybe there's a rule of thumb here somewhere...

Also New for July 2007! These "cobra pictures" came in from Nino from Argentina, no explanation offered, none needed!

New for June 2007! This is from The Emperor of Leesburg...

A friend of mine in Colonia NJ had a new phone line put in last weekend. Check out the photo, observe the perfect placement of the drill bit going right through the electric service cable. Since the installer shorted the line upstream of the breaker panel, the only thing that stopped the fireworks was the wire burning open. I wonder how fast the meter was spinning for the 20 seconds or so when the lights were flickering in the whole neighborhood? The technician is lucky to be alive, and the homeowner is also lucky that his house didn't burn down.
I guess this could have been done by Verizon, or the cable TV company, or the satellite company. They all show up at your house with the same 2-foot long drill bit, and their technicians are all about as well trained.A local electrician fixed the mess that Saturday evening. and Verizon paid it, somewhere north of $1200. There is also some obvious damage to the house which Verizon is going to have to pay for but has not yet done so. The electrician asked the Verizon guy if he would pick a lottery number for him, since his luck was so good.

We've got a feeling this picture is going to get more than 15 minutes fame, expect to see it on an Official Safety Poster soon (especially if you work for Verizon...). Think before you drill! If anyone wants to buy the original full sized picture (it has remarkable detail), make us an offer and we'll pass it on to the lucky homeowner...

Update July 2007... here's a picture of the temporary fix that PSEG did before the
electrician showed up...

New for June 2007! This from William: This is a picture of a (large microwave company located along the Route 495 Rust Belt) switch that we blew up in a circuit. This switch is only rated for 20 dBm peak power (absolute maximum) but we were using it in a circuit where the power was 1 W CW. We had a lot of fun blowing up a lot of switches on purpose as we researched the problem and looked for a solution (using a thermal camera to view the junction we could see that the switch went kapooooww at about +230 degC junction temp). We were eventually able to get this switch to work nicely in the application (still required 1W avg power) and had a lot of fun in the process.

Hey, that looks a lot like this product. - UE

Also new for June 2007! This from John:

We were testing TO-247 "300 watt" power mosfets to see how long they would last at 300 watts actual dissipation, pulsed load, bolted directly to a copper block. We ran them at 300 watts until they exploded, and many would not make it past 50 milliseconds. We wound up with an Ixys p-channel part and an IR n-channel. This is for an MRI gradient coil driver with about 17KW peak output, 32 fets on a huge heatsink with copper heat spreaders.


New for April 2007! Here's an RF cable with a problem, it got chewed up by a positioner! Submitted by Andy, an 18 year old lad doing an internship with a microwave company in the UK. Thanks for thinking of us, Andy!


New for April 2007! This just in from Tony...

Ever wonder why digital cellphones suck? If this level of engineering is any example, it should be crystal clear. OK, so the link would only suffer when the wind was blowing in a certain range of azimuth. The impact on the PCS sectors might be less, due to the lower frequency but good grief. Do people not get basic concepts anymore? Did they ever know them in the first place? What are they teaching in schools these days? Am I the only one who thinks this is wrong?
OK, so if the blades are nonmetallic composite, its still a big slab of dielectric material, moving through the link path (or one or more sectors) at a time, varying in thickness...multipath? Doppler shift? If there is any metallic structure it gets even more stupefying. Names, companies and location withheld to protect the RF physics



New for March 2007! This Agilent ESA-L1500A/E4411A 9 kHz-1.5 GHz spectrum analyzer was for recently sale on Ebay a "buy it now" for $1299. It's not worth 1299 cents! Seller "Effy6" has 100% positive feedback, and warns: Sold AS-IS, no returns and refunds. We wonder if it powers up? Contributed by Kerry from down under!



Also new for March 2007! Here's a FET that is a little shy on gain... check out the source bridge on this FET! Near as we can figure, the bonding tool got a little too close and mangled the bridge without actually breaking it. Amazingly, it still worked! (with about 4 dB lower gain than its undamaged brothers). It was delivered that way from a reputable supplier that shall rename nameless, only because we weren't given the info, not because we're scared of them! This fine bonding job have been done by an engineer, not a tech. Contributed by Dr. Matt of NRAO!



New for January 2007! These photos came from Michael. "Here are a few shots of an 3 kWHPA power supply that overheated and suffered a severe meltdown".... Someone call 911! If you click on any of the pictures you can view an even bigger image of destruction.





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