Archive for Experiments

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.

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.

Siglent SSA3032X 9kHz – 3.2GHz Spectrum Analyzer / TG Review, Teardown & Experiment

In this episode Shahriar presents a full teardown, analysis and review of the Siglent SSA3000X Series Spectrum Analyzer. Siglent’s SSA3000X family of spectrum analyzers offer a frequency range of 9 KHz to 2.1 GHz / 3.2 GHz. With their light weight, small size, and friendly user interface, the SSA3000s present a bright easy to read display, powerful and reliable automatic measurements, and plenty of impressive features. Applications are many, but include research and development, education, production, maintenance, and many more.

The review is organized as follows:

00:41 – Model comparison and overview.
03:56 – Full teardown and analysis of internal hardware.
17:38 – Initial performance assessment including tracking generator behavior.
29:50 – Antenna and diplexer measurements and characterization.
50:00 – Built-in applications overview and measurement personalities.
56:58 – PC interface software performance and overview.

Tutorial, Experiments & Teardown of a 77GHz Automotive FMCW Radar Module

In this episode Shahriar explores the principle operation of automotive FMCW radars. Thanks to a donated automotive radar module, various components of the system can be examined and explored. The PCB reveals three die-on-PCB ASICs responsible for generating and receiving 77GHz FMCW signals coupled to a 2D array of antennas. Several microwave components such as rat-race couplers and branchline couplers can also be observed. PCB rulers from SV1AFN Design Lab also show these microwave components at much lower frequencies. Two other ICs are used for ramp generation and PLL as well as a multi-input LNA/PGA/AAF with 12-bit ADC for IF processing. All components are examined under the microscope and the frequency of operation is calculated by measuring the branchline coupler’s dimensions.

Finally a simple Doppler effect radar is constructed by using a doubler, power divider, mixer and a pair of Vivaldi horn antennas. The Doppler effect can be observed by moving an object in front of the antenna pair.

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