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Setting a New Standard for Flexible Network Analyzers

 

June 1, 2009

Introduction
Today's R&D and manufacturing managers and engineers face a number of significant challenges. Each group also has its own unique set of needs. In manufacturing, for example, engineers need to decrease test times while increasing throughput and yield. Here speed is of the utmost importance. In R&D, on the other hand, being able to solve design challenges faster and with less iteration is paramount. As a consequence, ease-of-use remains an important need in this segment of the product development lifecycle. The problem, of course, is that these "needs" are somewhat at odds with the current state of test and measurement solutions--especially considering that today it often takes multiple pieces of test equipment to properly characterize active devices and components. Characterization is even more complex when those devices or components are located on a wafer. In this case, making the appropriate measurements is not as simple as connecting a cable.

Given the increasing pressure on engineers to speed the R&D process, maximize manufacturing throughput and reduce cost, the need for flexible, highly integrated test and measurement solutions has now been thrust firmly into the spotlight. For engineers developing and manufacturing RF and microwave frequency active devices and components (e.g., amplifiers, mixers and converters) for the aerospace and defense, satellite, broadband wireless access, and wireless communications industries, that need has become all the more acute. Utilizing a new generation of network analyzer that not only delivers the highest performance and accuracy, but that can also be configured for various measurement scenarios, now offers these engineers a viable way to address the challenges they face. It may even be key to their company's competitive advantage.

Defining the New Standard

While conventional network analyzers can effectively be used to measure active devices, they fail to provide the accuracy, ease-of-use and speed that today's R&D and manufacturing engineers require. Such functionality is extremely important in the wireless communications industry where time-to-market can often make the difference between a company's success or failure. Consider, for example, that in manufacturing any delay in throughput or decrease in yield can have a tremendous impact on a company's bottom line in terms of both time and cost. Consider also, that use of a conventional network analyzer to perform a range of measurements on a number of different components can be a slow and tedious process, complicated by the need to continually re-arrange the test equipment setup. Today's engineers now demand a faster, more efficient alternative.

What's required is flexible, integrated network analyzer-capable of measuring active as well as passive devices--and that offers functionality equivalent to having multiple tools in one box. It must be able to make lots of measurements quickly and with great accuracy. Additionally, it must be defined by the following characteristics:

  • High Available Power
    This feature is necessary to provide the larger signals needed, for example, to drive an amplifier into its compression region.

  • Source Purity
    This performance is beneficial in testing amplifiers for harmonic distortion or intermodulation distortion (IMD). Additionally, the combination of high output power and low harmonics results in simplified setup since it reduces the need for external amplifiers and filters.

  • High Stability Level
    This characteristic reduces the number of calibrations, thereby saving time and increasing measurement confidence.

  • Excellent Receiver Compression
    The network analyzer's internal receiver should have an excellent specification for receiver compression. This feature is critical to measurement accuracy; especially at high power levels where if the network analyzer is not well specified, it may inadvertently contribute to the measurement of amplifier compression, harmonics and IMD.

  • Integrated Pulse Hardware
    This feature is key to simplifying the setup for making pulsed S-parameter measurements. With integrated pulse modulators and pulse generators, the need for anything external to the network analyzer to make this measurement is eliminated.

  • A Second RF Signal Generator
    Having a second RF signal generator inside the network analyzer is important for measuring amplifiers, mixers, and frequency converters. Its purpose is two-fold. First, it provides a convenient and fast local oscillator (LO) signal for exceptionally fast fixed-IF tests of converter and mixers. Second, it can be used as one of the RF signals in an IMD measurement of an amplifier.

  • Internal Source-Combining Network
    An internal source-combining network saves time by eliminating the need to find and hook up an external combiner with the right frequency range, thereby making it easier for engineers to perform IMD measurements on amplifiers and converters. With the internal combiner, S-parameter and IMD tests on components can be performed without having to change the test setup or sacrificing the measurement accuracy.

  • Configurable Signal Routing Architecture
    Having a configurable signal routing architecture provides the engineer with the flexibility to make a range of measurements with multiple pieces of test equipment via a single connection to the DUT. It is no longer necessary therefore to modify the test equipment setup to make additional measurements beyond those that can be done with the network analyzer. For example, an external signal generator with digital modulation capability and a vector signal analyzer can be switched to the inputs and outputs of an amplifier to make additional measurements such as adjacent-channel power ratio (ACPR), error-vector magnitude (EVM), or complementary cumulative distribution function (CCDF). The flexible architecture also makes it easy to add external signal-conditioning hardware such as filters and booster amplifiers.

PNA-X: The World's Most Flexible Network Analyzer

The PNA-X Series network analyzers from Agilent Technologies meets the needs of today's R&D and manufacturing engineers by delivering all of the previously detailed functionality, as well as an unsurpassed combination of speed, accuracy and flexibility (Figure 1). For the engineer, that translates into higher levels of test integration and the ability to work with higher frequencies, as well as reduced setup time, measurement complexity, time to make measurements, and test costs.

FIGURE 1: Agilent's PNA-X network analyzer offers a unique single-connection solution for CW and pulsed S-parameter, compression, IMD, and noise figure measurements.

Figure 1: Agilent's PNA-X network analyzer offers a unique single-connection solution for CW and pulsed S-parameter, compression, IMD, and noise figure measurements

The PNA-X is available in four frequency ranges: 13.5, 26.5, 43.5, and 50 GHz. Cost savings can be realized by the user's ability to select the right frequency model required for their specific applications. The PNA-X offers the industry's widest range of measurement applications for amplifiers, converters or modules with linear and nonlinear characterizations. Applications include vector noise figure, gain compression, IMD, true differential and Nonlinear Vector Network Analyzer (NVNA). The breadth of measurement applications and flexible architecture enables single-connection multiple measurements for complex active device characterizations and tests.

The 43.5- and 50-GHz PNA-X models support higher frequency applications such as radar and satellite communications which typically require multiple racks full of instruments and multiple connections. Since these models integrate the capabilities of a full rack of equipment into a single instrument, equipment count for these applications can be reduced by 50 percent. Reduction in test system cost, test complexity and equipment space stems from the highly-integrated measurement capabilities, versatile hardware and re-configurable measurement paths of the single-connection PNA-X.

The PNA-X also offers a unique single contact solution for on wafer tests. Typical on-wafer device tests require multiple probe contacts which causes unnecessary damage. to the device under test (DUT). The PNA-X minimizes damage to the DUT by performing multiple tests with a single contact. This single-contact approach significantly improves quality by eliminating multiple probe contacts and enabling the most accurate characterization and most reliable wire bonding. For all industries, the PNA-X increases throughput more than 400 percent.

The 13.5-GHz PNA-X model supports lower frequency devices used in the wireless communications market where reduced test time, number of test stations and test cost is critical. By integrating measurement capabilities from four test stations (small signal gain/match, high power or pulse, distortion, and noise figure) into one, it reduces test costs by 30 percent and the number of test stations by 75 percent

Key features of the PNA-X Series network analyzers include:

  • Single-connection, multiple measurements. This configurable 2- or 4-port network analyzer offers a unique single-connection solution for CW and pulsed S-parameter, compression, IMD, and noise figure measurements.

  • Exceptional performance. A receiver compression spec of 0.1 dB at +12 dBm improves accuracy at high power levels, while high stability reduces the number of calibrations, thereby saving time and increasing measurement confidence.

  • Two built-in high-performance signal sources; the industry's only 2-port network analyzer with an internal second source. Sources offer high output power (+16 dBm), low harmonics (-60 dBc) and a wide power sweep range (40 dB), which simplify setup by reducing the need for external amplifiers and filters. The integrated, second source enables fast and convenient fixed-IF converter and amplifier tests (e.g., IMD). By enabling a 30 times (typical) improvement in measurement speed over an external source, it also increases test throughput. With the four-port PNA-X networks analyzer, the second source can be used to make match-corrected conversion gain measurements as well as match measurements of all three DUT ports. (Figure 2).

FIGURE 2: The second internal source can be used as a fast fixed- or swept-LO signal for conversion loss or conversion gain measurements of frequency converters and mixers. With the four-port PNA-X, the match of all three ports of the DUT can be measured.

Figure 2: The second internal source can be used as a fast fixed- or swept-LO signal for conversion loss or conversion gain measurements of frequency converters and mixers. With the four-port PNA-X, the match of all three ports of the DUT can be measured.

  • Industry's widest range of measurement applications for amplifiers and converters, and linear and nonlinear characterizations, including noise figure, gain compression, IMD, true differential, NVNA, and more.

  • Internal signal-routing switches for connecting the DUT to external instruments such as a digitally modulated signal generator and signal analyzer (Figure 3). Switches provide increased flexibility for adding signal conditioning hardware or additional test equipment for single connection measurements. They also enable alternate measurement paths, re-routing of signal paths and the addition of amplifiers, filters, and attenuators to optimize system setup.

FIGURE 3: Internal switches in the PNA-X's test set allow connection of other test equipment to the DUT via the network analyzer's test-port connectors. For example, a digitally modulated source and a vector-signal analyzer can be switched in to measure ACPR, EVM, or CCDF.

Figure 3: Internal switches in the PNA-X's test set allow connection of other test equipment to the DUT via the network analyzer's test-port connectors. For example, a digitally modulated source and a vector-signal analyzer can be switched in to measure ACPR, EVM, or CCDF.

  • Only network analyzer with internal pulse modulators and generators for fast, simplified pulse measurements. This advanced capability enables pulse measurements up to 30 times faster compared with other analyzers that require external generators and modulators.

  • Built-in combiner that eliminates the need to find and hook up external combiners, further simplifying the setup for IMD measurements (Figure 4).

FIGURE 4: In this configuration, the PNA-X's two sources are combined internally and routed out of test-port one for IMD measurements. The second source is turned off for S-parameter measurements.

Figure 4: In this configuration, the PNA-X's two sources are combined internally and routed out of test-port one for IMD measurements. The second source is turned off for S-parameter measurements.

  • Optional NVNA application for fast, accurate characterization and design of active devices and components. Agilent's award-winning NVNA is the industry's first interoperable measurement and simulation environment for designing nonlinear components. The NVNA is available in four frequency ranges: 13.5, 26.5, 43.5, and 50 GHz. It is the industry's first 43.5 and 50 GHz high-performance nonlinear vector network analyzer. All NVNA features and capabilities are available up to 50 GHz, enabling accurate nonlinear characterization of higher frequency devices. For additional information on Agilent's NVNA refer to, "Understanding Nonlinear Vector Analysis."

  • Ability to make measurements in waveguide bands from 50 GHz to 0.5 THz by adding one of Agilent's two millimeter-wave test controllers and millimeter-wave modules. With an IF inputs option (Option 020), engineers can connect the PNA-X directly to either the 2-port (N5261A) or 4-port (N5262A) millimeter-wave test set without an external source, transforming the PNA-X into a 2- or 4-port millimeter-wave component measurement system.

Using Agilent's PNA-X network analyzer, today's engineers now have the flexibility, performance, and accuracy they demand. R&D engineers are better able to solve design challenges faster and with less iteration, while manufacturing engineers can realize increased throughput and yield, as well as reduced test costs.

Conclusion
Agilent's PNA-X is the world's most flexible network analyzer. It is an integrated solution that reduces setup time and the time to make a variety of measurements, while also delivering the highest level of accuracy of any existing network analyzer currently on the market. Its ease-of-use and flexibility now enables engineers to measure a broad range of high-performance, leading-edge components up to 50 GHz, including amplifiers, mixers and converters, via a single connection. Such features make the PNA-X network analyzer the ideal choice for addressing the challenges facing today's R&D and manufacturing managers and engineers developing and manufacturing RF and microwave frequency active devices and components for the A/D, satellite, broadband wireless access and wireless communications industries.

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Related links for more information
  Press Release: Agilent Technologies Expands Industry's Most Flexible PNA-X Network Analyzer for Active Device Test with 13.5, 43.5, 50 GHz Models
(2009-June-01)
  Press Release: Agilent Technologies Introduces Breakthrough Technology to Analyze Nonlinear Behaviors of Active Components
(2008-June-02)
  Press Release: Agilent Technologies Introduces Premier-Performance Network Analyzer for Active Device Test
(2007-February-01)
  Backgrounder: Understanding Nonlinear Vector Analysis
  For more information: www.agilent.com/find/pna-x
  Contacts: Janet Smith
Agilent Technologies
+1 970 679 5397
janet_smith@agilent.com
 

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