Teardown & Repair of an Agilent N1912A P-Series Power Meter

In this episode Shahriar investigates a peculiar problem with an Agilent P-Series Power Meter. While the instruments works during startup, after about 10 minutes the LCD screen begins to flicker and become scrambled. Initial investigation reveals that the issue is not likely with the main motherboard since USB connection to the instrument and data-readout is possible even when the LCD screen is malfunctioning.

Teardown of the unit reveals a modular design where a ribbon cable connects the front panel to the motherboard. Moving the cable around affect the LCD which points to a faulty cable connection. The failure is at the only ribbon cable without a proper removable connector to the motherboard. The cable is cut, re-crimped and the solder joints re-worked. This appears to solve the LCD problem. The performance of the unit is verified by measuring the output power of the Tektronix TSG Vector Signal Generator.

Teardown, Repair & Upgrade of an Agilent E4405B 13.5GHz ESA-E Spectrum Analyzer

In this episode Shahriar explores the cause of failure of an Agilent E4405B ESA 13.5GHz spectrum analyzer. In a previous episode, an E4407B version of the ESA was repaired and upgraded which is helpful in debugging and analyzing this instrument. The instrument displays LO Unlock which is a familiar problem. After an overview of the system block diagram, the LO signal path is traced and analyzed for problems.

After some investigation, the problem appears to be identical to the E4407B model repaired before! The Hittite (Analog Devices) divide-by-4 static divider unit has failed and does not divide correctly at high frequencies. The component is replaced which restores the instrument’s functionality.

The LCD screen of the unit is also very dim. The CCFL tube and the inverter are replaced with an LED back light instead. The unit then produces a bright and vibrant graphs and text. The performance of the instrument is verified with a Keysight MXG signal generator.

Teardown & Repair of an Agilent E3632A DC Power Supply

In this episode Shahriar & Rosanah investigate an Agilent power supply which does not appear to power on. It can be quickly observed that the fuse has failed on the unit. Using an isolation transformer a small amount of AC voltage is applied to the unit after the fuse replacement. It is clear that a short is present somewhere in the instrument since even at 10V AC the instrument consumes more than 1A.

After separating the internal transformer from the main PCB, the high current consumption is eliminated. The short is traced to a damaged main rectifier in the instrument. A replacement rectifier is used which allows the instrument to power on.

The VFD display is however extremely dim. After a failed attempt at restoring the VFD brightness, a new display is purchased from eBay. The replacement produces a bright vibrant VFD display. The performance of the power supply is verified under load.

Tutorial, Teardown & Experiments with Stanford Research SR530 Lock-in Amplifier

In this episode Shahriar goes over the operation and principle theory behind Lock-in Amplifiers. The SRS SR530 is one of the most iconic lock-in amplifiers ever made and since it offers two channels it can be used to perform very interesting experiments across many domains. After reviewing the block diagram and equations governing the theory of operation, a brief instrument teardown is presented.

Two unique and interesting experiments are also presented. In the first experiment the instrument is used to measure the speed of light. This is accomplished by measuring the wavelength of sound at 20kHz using a pair of speakers and a function generator. The distance between the speakers can be carefully adjusted and the relative signal strength from each lock-in channel is measured and thus the wavelength can also be measured.

In the second experiment the sensitivity of a red LED to blue laser light is measured. Due to the semiconductor composition of the red LED as well as its red plastic casing, the responsibility of the LED to blue light is extremely low. A chopper is therefore used to lock the light to the lock-in amplifier’s reference input. The measured induced current is measured down to very low optical level in the order of hundreds of fempto (10^-15) amps.

Teardown & Repair of a Fluke PM6685R 4.5GHz Rubidium Frequency Counter

In this episode Shahriar repair a Fluke PM6685R Rubidium Frequency Counter. The instrument shows highly unstable results and produces high-pitch noise when powered on. The high-frequency noises point to a problem with the DC-DC converter circuit in the power supply module. A close examination points to degraded capacitors. After all capacitors have been replaced, the noise issue is resolved. The instrument’s performance is then verified and calibrated against an external Rubidium reference. The agreement between the units is better than 10ppb.

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