Understanding the Need for High-Performance Microwave Network Analysis
June 07, 2011
Accurately characterizing active and passive devices like filters, duplexers, amplifiers, and frequency converters is essential to developing the highest-quality components. Unfortunately, the real-world performance of these components is often determined in part by the performance of the measurement tools used for that characterization. The process is further complicated by increasing pressure on engineers to speed the R&D process, maximize manufacturing throughput and reduce cost. As a result, developing the highest-quality components now requires that engineers employ a measurement tool that not only offers the highest performance possible, but a lower cost of test as well.
Offering the industry’s highest performance at the lowest price point, Agilent’s new PNA Series microwave network analyzer addresses this challenge head on (Figure 1). Building on the legacy PNA introduced in 2001, the new PNA Series from Agilent Technologies boasts five additional PNA models and supports a range of advanced measurement options.
Figure 1: Agilent's new PNA is the industry's highest performance microwave network analyzer with the lowest cost of test. Its upgradability/scalability make it easily customizable to the engineers changing needs, while a removable CPU and solid-state hard disk drive make it future proof.
Whereas the legacy PNA Series featured a 2-port configuration in four frequency models (20, 40, 50 and 67 GHz), the new PNAs are available with a 2-port internal single-source or 4-port internal dual-source configuration in 13.5, 26.5, 43.5, 50, and 67 GHz frequency models. Setting a new standard in microwave network analyzer performance, these models offer the industry’s widest dynamic range (112 dB @ 67 GHz) and highest source output power (11 dBm at 67 GHz), as well as lowest trace noise (0.003 dB @ 67 GHz) significantly lower than what’s available from competing solutions (Figure 2). All models feature a 0.1 dB receiver compression point of +10 dBm or higher.
Figure 2: With a maximum available power of +10 dBm or higher in full frequency span and low receiver noise floor, the PNA realizes the industry's widest system dynamic range.
In addition to these outstanding performance characteristics, the PNA Series provides the most accurate S-parameter measurements with the widest power range in the market. This performance allows engineers to increase their yields with less guard band required, while also providing the best data correlation between design verification and production tests.
To better understand how the new PNA Series achieves its high performance, it’s important to first understand the analyzer’s history and evolution. The legacy PNA Series is part of the larger Agilent PNA family of network analyzers that also encompasses the PNA-L and PNA-X Series solutions. While the PNA is the industry’s highest performing network analyzer with advanced measurement applications designed for testing passive and active devices, the PNA-L provides general-purpose network analysis for S-parameter and simple nonlinear testing of passive components, amplifiers, and frequency converters. The PNA-X, Agilent’s most advanced and flexible microwave network analyzer, provides complete linear and nonlinear component characterization in a single instrument with a single connection (See the sidebar, “PNA-X: The World’s Most Flexible Network Analyzer”). Its single-connection multiple-measurement (SCMM) architecture enables both unrivaled configurability and a unique single-connection solution for S-parameters, noise figure and intermodulation distortion (IMD) measurements. It also makes it possible to perform many other measurements that are required for testing active devices up to 67 GHz (e.g., pulse, gain compression, harmonics, and spectrum).
PNA-X: The World’s Most Flexible Network Analyzer
The PNA-X Series network analyzer was born out of Agilent's 45-year legacy of technical leadership and innovation in RF network analysis. It stands today as the world’s most integrated and flexible single-connection microwave test engine for measuring active devices. Available in five frequency models (13.5, 26.5, 43.5, 50, and 67 GHz), it delivers an unsurpassed combination of speed, accuracy and flexibility. For R&D and manufacturing engineers alike, 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.
With an architecture that combines two internal signal sources, a signal combiner, S-parameter and noise receivers, pulse modulators and generators, and a flexible set of switches and RF access points, the PNA-X provides a powerful hardware core for a broad range of linear and nonlinear measurements, with a single set of connections to the DUT. It also supports the industry’s widest range of measurement applications, spanning from RF to millimeter wave. As an added benefit, the PNA-X's compatibility with other Agilent measurement solutions ensures network analysis down to the nanoscale. Compatible solutions include: Agilent's Physical layer test system (PLTS) software, materials test equipment and accessories, and award-winning scanning microwave microscope.
For more information, go to www.agilent.com.find/pna-x.
Since the PNA family’s first introduction, Agilent has worked to continually improve its overall performance and capabilities. Through the years, for example, the PNA-X has realized significant innovations in terms of frequency (now up to 67 GHz) and support for things like nonlinear vector network analysis (NVNA). Consequently, when Agilent turned its attention to improving the legacy PNA, it made sense to leverage the PNA-X’s innovations to create a seamless platform.
Basing the new PNA Series on the PNA-X architecture enables it to deliver significantly better performance/price, along with support for a range of critical measurement options. Moreover, with a single seamless platform that shares common software, engineers can now more easily customize the analyzer for just the right level of performance to meet their specific budget and measurement needs. This commonality guarantees measurement consistency, repeatability and a common remote-programming interface across multiple instruments in R&D and manufacturing. All of the powerful PNA software options can be added later to meet future test requirements.
The PNA family supports a range of advanced measurement options that can be employed during the design and production of passive and active devices. Using them allows engineers to significantly improve the measurement accuracy and productivity of their high-performance microwave component characterization and test. The new PNA now offers the majority of advanced measurement options currently available with the PNA-X (Figure 3). These options include: gain compression, two-tone IMD/spectrum analysis, true-mode stimulus, source phase control and fast CW mode. It does not, however, support the PNA-X’s low-noise receiver dedicated to noise figure measurements, nonlinear component characterization, nonlinear X-parameters*, nonlinear pulse envelope domain, or arbitrary load impedance S-parameters options.
Figure 3: Agilent PNA microwave network analyzers offer a wide range of advanced measurement applications.
Like the PNA-X, the new PNA also offers a noise figure measurement option using standard receivers (Figure 4). Through the addition of firmware, this option allows the PNA to make high-accuracy noise figure measurements of amplifiers and frequency converters. These measurements are made using the analyzer’s standard receivers and Agilent’s unique source-correction technique. With this technique, an Agilent ECal module is configured as an impedance tuner to remove the effects of imperfect system source match.
Figure 4: The new PNA Series supports an option that enables the engineer to make noise figure measurements using a standard receiver.
With its outstanding performance and support for advanced measurement options, the new PNA Series is ideal for testing high-performance passive devices and active device characterization, as well as millimeter-wave (mm-wave), signal integrity and materials measurements. As frequencies move into the millimeter-wave regions, for example, the PNA can be expanded to either a 2- or 4-port 110 GHz single-sweep mm-wave solution that provides power leveling, true differential and frequency converter measurement capabilities. This solution allows engineers to characterize mixers/converters and differential devices with continuous measurements over the entire operating frequency range.
In support of signal integrity measurements, the PNA works with Agilent’s Physical Layer Test System (PLTS) and multiport test sets. This powerful signal integrity tool for high-speed digital designers is the industry-standard for calibration, measurement and analysis of linear passive interconnects (e.g., cables, connectors, backplanes, and printed circuit boards). The PNA is also compatible with materials measurement software and can be used to determine how materials interact with electromagnetic fields by calculating permeability and permittivity.
With the network analysis needs of the engineering community steadily evolving to keep pace with increasingly complex devices and their changing requirements, today’s R&D and manufacturing engineers demand a vector network analyzer with the best performance possible, and at a price that is cost effective. The new PNA Series leverages the performance and functionality of the PNA-X to set a new price and performance standard in the industry. Its support for a wide range of measurement options, configurability and compatibility with PLTS, materials measurement software and multiport test sets enables it to support the widest range of microwave applications, including active device characterization and tests; device modeling; high-speed digital; and material research. With such characteristics, the new PNA Series now stands poised to replace the legacy PNA as the industry standard solution for microwave network analysis.
About Agilent Technologies
Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is the world’s premier measurement company and a technology leader in chemical analysis, life sciences, electronics and communications. The company’s 18,500 employees serve customers in more than 100 countries. Agilent had net revenues of $5.4 billion in fiscal 2010. Information about Agilent is available at www.agilent.com.
*X-parameters is a trademark of Agilent Technologies. The X-parameter format and underlying equations are open and documented. For more information, visit www.agilent.com/find/eesof-x-parameters-info.
|Press Release:||Agilent Technologies Introduces Highest Performance Microwave PNA Network Analyzers
For more information, go to www.agilent.com/find/pna-x_backgrounder
Janet Smith, Americas
Sarah Calnan, Europe
Iris Ng, Asia