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Project Notes

#082 MobileRFDetectorKit

Build and investigate a commercially available “mobile phone signal” detector kit


I picked up a “Mobile Phone Signal Flash Light Radiation Power DIY Kit” for USD1.15. Firstly to experiment with the kit/circuit, and secondly as its a pretty cheap way to get hold of a 1SS86 barrier diode.

First Test - Breadboard Build

The circuit is supposed to be tuned for detecting mobile phone GSM signals - not CDMA or other - but that itself is a pretty big bag of frequencies.

Putting the circuit on a breadboard will I expect affect its behaviour, as I guess the breadboard rails act either as shield or antenna.

The Build

The breadboard build yields interesting (unexpected?) results:

  • with antenna attached, the circuit is permanently “on”
  • with no antenna, it detects a bunch of things:
    • flourescent light radiation
    • proximity to wires
    • hands and body parts!
  • what it can’t detect is a mobile phone signal;-)

In fact, it turns out to be a brilliant body-part detector. Arranged just so, it’s possible to control the LED from a foot or so away by angling your arms and uttering all manner of gong fu incantations. Or try “Expecto patronum!”

I couldn’t figure out exactly what is going on, but given some sensitivity to how I had the power leads arranged, I’m guessing it is something like this: the body is resonating(?) with the EM radiation from the power supply (among other things). Basically acting as an antenna, and then bending the field towards the detector circuit. Or maybe that’s just gobbledigook.

An interesting effect anyway. Opens the possibility of some neat parlour tricks and ‘magic’. Maybe I could charge people to measure their ‘aura’;-)

The PCB build

The Build

After assembling the PCB, but without any antenna attached, I can now detect a mobile phone signal reasonably well. For example, if I place an outbound call with the PCB sitting near the phone.

The phone I’m testing is using HSPA+ over WCDMA.

However if I attach virtually any length of antenna, it goes full on all the time. Either I’m in a very noisy environment, or the sensitivity of this circuit is incorrectly calibrated. I might come back to this later to investigate further.


The Breadboard

The Schematic

The Build

PCB Build


Qty Description
1 PCB board
1 solid core wire (“Scrap Tin”)
1 0.35mm cable
1 1SS86 detector diode
3 S8050 transistor
1 5mm white green led
2 1MΩ resistor
2 10kΩ resistor
1 470kΩ resistor
1 220Ω resistor
2 10nF 103 ceramic capacitor

Credits and references

Project Source on GitHub Project Gallery Return to the LEAP Catalog

This page is a web-friendly rendering of my project notes shared in the LEAP GitHub repository.

LEAP is just my personal collection of projects. Two main themes have emerged in recent years, sometimes combined:

  • electronics - usually involving an Arduino or other microprocessor in one way or another. Some are full-blown projects, while many are trivial breadboard experiments, intended to learn and explore something interesting
  • scale modelling - I caught the bug after deciding to build a Harrier during covid to demonstrate an electronic jet engine simulation. Let the fun begin..
To be honest, I haven't quite figured out if these two interests belong in the same GitHub repo or not. But for now - they are all here!

Projects are often inspired by things found wild on the net, or ideas from the many great electronics and scale modelling podcasts and YouTube channels. Feel free to borrow liberally, and if you spot any issues do let me know (or send a PR!). See the individual projects for credits where due.