Signal Hound PNCS-1 1GHz Phase Noise Clock Standard Review, Teardown & Experiments

In this episode Shahriar takes a close look at the new Signal Hound PNCS-1 clock standard module. The purpose of this instrument is to provide an exceptionally clean phase noise reference at 1GHz in order to characterize other instruments such as spectrum analyzers and oscilloscopes.

The unit uses an OCXO at its heart running at 100MHz. The signal is them multiplied by a factor two and then a factor of five while being filtered and amplified in order to generate 1GHz. The complete signal path of the instrument is analyzed. The unit is then used on an Agilent MXA generator to characterize its phase noise. A frequency divider is also used in conjunction with the PNCS-1 in order to create lower frequency signals.

Teardown, Repair and Experiments with an Agilent E4981A High-Speed Capacitance Meter

In this episode Shahriar investigates an Agilent E4981A high-speed capacitance meter which fails self-test during startup. The instrument reports a series of errors associated with the CPU board. The teardown reveals a multi-board construction where the main analog assembly employs an FPGA for control and interface to the main CPU board. The unit has a disconnected ribbon cable between the analog board and the main CPU assembly. After correcting the problem the instrument completes self-test without errors.

After the repair the unit is used to measure several known capacitors for functionality verification. Finally the instrument is used to measure a hand-made parallel plate capacitor. The capacitor can accept various types of dielectric material whose impact is studied.

Five Interesting Things! July 2018

In this episode Shahriar presents 5 interesting things from around the lab! The topics range from optics to microwave components. The video is organized at follows:

00:38 – Pasternak 12GHz-14GHz continuously tuneable 20dB attenuator. How does it work?
11:02 – Ultra-high efficiency triple jacket glass distillation dewar.
14:59 – AWG PLC 8-way WDM splitter on 50GHz channels.
24:15 – PCB embedded D-Band waveguide with Vivaldi launch end-points.
28:45 – Hidden security features of the Canadian currency.

International Microwave Symposium 2018 – Industry Trade Show Overview

In this episode Shahriar presents an overview of a small portion of the vendors present on the exhibition floor at the International Microwave Symposium 2018.

The IEEE MTT International Microwave Symposium (IMS) is the premier annual international meeting for technologists involved in all aspects of microwave theory and practice. It consists of a full week of events, including technical paper presentations, workshops, and tutorials, as well as numerous social events and networking opportunities. The symposium also hosts a large commercial exhibition. Co-located with IMS are the IEEE RFIC, IMBioC and ARFTG conferences.

The video is organized as follows:

00:00:08 – Introductions
00:02:21 – Keysight Technologies (
00:12:25 – Rohde & Schwarz (
00:21:12 – X-Microwave (
00:26:49 – MPI-Corporation (
00:33:34 – Siglent Technologies (
00:36:56 – Signal Hound (
00:40:34 – Mini-Circuits (
00:44:39 – Pico Technology (
00:48:11 – Virginia Diodes Inc. (
00:50:21 – SAF Tehnika (
00:52:28 – LPFK (
00:55:45 – Teledyne Technologies (
00:56:55 – Maury-Microwave (
00:58:20 – Noisecom & Boonton (
01:00:00 – Guzik Technical Enterprises (
01:03:00 – Connectronics Inc. (
01:03:43 – A.J. Tuck Company (
01:04:51 – HyperLabs Inc. (
01:07:15 – Holzworth Instruments (

Teardown & Repair of an Agilent E4440A 3Hz – 26.5GHz PSA Spectrum Analyzer

In this episode Shahriar takes a close look at a defective Agilent E4440A spectrum analyzer. Initial analysis reveals that the startup errors are caused by a defective pre-amplifier module. During initial alignment and calibration, the defective microwave relays inside the pre-amplifier module fail insertion loss specifications and cause alignment failures.

Unfortunately, the relays are not repairable and must be replaced. Two new relays are purchased and replacement clears all alignment issues. The main motherboard battery has also failed; a replacement battery corrects any time and date keeping errors. The repaired instrument is cycled through several alignment procedures without any problems. The performance of the unit is verified by examining the DANL of the instrument with and without the pre-amplifier activated.

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