Experiments and Teardown of an Agilent 11896A Polarization Controller


In this episode Shahriar demonstrates the functionality and applications of an Agilent 11896A Polarization Controller. Various fiber optic communication methods are presented. This includes the use of complex modulation schemes (such as PAM and QAM for coherent receivers), polarization division multiplexing (PDM), wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), and spatial division multiplexing (SDM). The concept of light polarization is demonstrated by using a pair lenses from a consumer theater 3D glasses and two blue LEDs with uncorrelated lighting patterns.

In order to test the polarization controller, a solid-state laser source, SMF fiber with APC/PC connectors as well as a polarization beam splitter is presented. By using a pair of optical power sensors, the functionality of the polarization controller is verified. Finally, the teardown of the unit is presented and the method to achieve polarization control is observed. 

The fiber optic communication overview document can be downloaded here. I’d also like to acknowledge my colleague and friend Dr. Timo Pfau for his expertise and consult on fiber optic communication methods.


Tutorial on the Design and Characterization of Class-B and AB Amplifiers


In this episode Shahriar continues his investigation of discrete Bipolar amplifier design. The advantages and disadvantages of Class-A amplifiers are explained. The conceptual schematic of a Class-B amplifier is presented which leads to the introduction of Class-AB amplifier circuit to overcome the ‘dead-zone’ impairment of a push-pull Class-B design. To further improve the Class-AB amplifier and lower its input impedance, a final Class-A followed by Class-AB amplifier is presented  The component parameters are calculated and the schematics is explained in detail. All circuits are then implemented on a breadboard and tested both in the time domain and frequency domain. All schematics can be downloaded from here.


Tutorial and Experiments on Magnetic Levitation


In this episode Shahriar demonstrates one of the simplest magnetic levitation circuits. First, the basic concept of magnetic levitation is examined. Two different methods of detecting the location of the levitating object is presented and the Hall effect sensor method is chosen. A semi-digital overall system is implemented where a PWM control IC is employed to control the magnetic field strength. The block diagram and functionality of this IC is presented. Finally, the schematic of a dual-Hall effect sensor solution is presented. The circuit is built and tested in both open-loop and close-loop configuration. Magnetic levitation is demonstrated with the capability of adjusting the levitation location. The schematic of circuit can be downloaded here and the electromagnet can be purchased from here.


Tutorial and Experiments on Energy Harvesting ICs

Energy Harvesting Tree

In this episode Shahriar investigates some state-of-the-art energy harvesting ICs from Linear Technology. The LTC3105 is a highly efficient 400mA Step-Up DC/DC Converter with Maximum Power Point Control and 250mV Start-Up. After exploring the IC’s internal block diagram, the evaluation board for this energy harvesting chip is presented. Various experiments, including the calculation of efficiency, maximum power delivery, start-up behavior and MPPC are presented. As a last experiment, a two stage energy harvesting setup using a solar panel and a super-capacitor capable of charging an iPhone is demonstrated.

The second IC of interest is the LTC3109 which is an Auto-Polarity, Ultralow Voltage Step-Up Converter and Power Manager Energy Harvesting chip. The block diagram and the evaluation board of this IC is presented. The ultra-low voltage capability of the circuit is demonstrated through the use of a Peltier cooler thermo-electric component to generate a 5V output voltage. As a final experiment, several ice cubes are used in conjunction with the thermo-electric generator in order to harvest enough energy to charge an iPhone for 30 seconds.

Tutorial on the Theory, Design and Characterization of Nyquist Digital to Analog Converters


In this episode, Shahriar presents the theory, design and characterization of Nyquist Digital to Analog Converters (DACs). After a brief overview of DAC operation and theory, the schematic of an 8-Bit R-2R DAC is presented. The R-2R DAC, which is driven by a dsPIC30F6014A Microchip microcontroller  is capable of producing ramps and arbitrary waveforms uploaded through an RS232 interface. The static integral non-linearity (INL) and differential non-linearity (DNL) is measured by using a Rigol DM3068 Multimeter through a Matlab interface program. The dynamic performance of the DAC is characterized using an Analog Devices AD6645 105MSps 14-Bit ADC evaluation board coupled with a USB FIFO interface board. By using the ‘Visual Analog’ software, the spectrum of the DAC output as well as the signal to quantization and distortion ratio (SQNDR) is calculated. Finally, the impact of component mismatches, operational amplifier non-linearity and timing uncertainty on the INL/DNL and SQNDR (ENOB) of the DAC is examined.