Model 99 ABS Current Preamplifier no signal problem

The Model 99 Current Preamplifier is used on the older PHI (Physical Electronics) 660 scanning Auger electron spectrometers.

99 ABS preamp

There is a fairly common problem with this design of preamplifier where the input JFET can get damaged from sample arcing which results in a total loss of ABS (absorbed current) image.

The most common solution to this issue is to replace QN2 which is a 2N5546 dual JFET. These parts are obsolete but readily available on Ebay. You can also find equivalent replacement JFETs such as the EXR461.

To replace QN2, first remove the cover from the 99 ABS preamp.

The picture below shows the location of QN2.

Use a tweezers to pull up each leg of QN2 as you heat it with a soldering iron and then use a solder sucker or copper braid to remove all the solder from the holes on the circuit board.

Note the location of the tab that is on the circuit board and then bend the leads on the replacement 2N5546 so that the leads line up with the holes in the board. Press the 2N5546 down so that the pins are firmly in the holes, then remove the 2N5546 and cut the ends of the leads so that they are shorter. You only want about 1/8″ of the leads going into to the holes as otherwise the leads might short to the chassis.

Insert the 2N5546 into the holes and solder the lead wires to the board.

Replacing QN2 will likely restore the ABS image.

The schematic below shows that QN2 is the first thing that sees the input signal and so it makes sense that QN2 would likely be damaged from an arc. Also, JFETs are susceptible to arc damage more than a lower impedance device such as an op amp.

For help with repairs or maintenance on your PHI 660 (or other older PHI surface analysis systems) please contact RBD Instruments here –