Tag Archive for Parts

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 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 Waveform Shaping and Signal Constellation in an Optical Link

3D Constellation

In this episode Shahriar uses a few components to beyond what there were originally intended for in order to setup an optical link! By using a BlinkM RGB LED, a Color Sensor, and two PIC USB Boards from Sparkfun Electronics, a stand-alone optical link is established. Various theories of operation, including multilevel data transmission, signal constellation and detailed circuit diagrams are also presented. The final result is an 8-PAM, 3-Wavelength optical link with a colorful three-dimensional constellation graph. The code for the transmitter IC, receiver IC and Matlab functions are available to download from here.


9-DoF AHRS Sensor Board and RGB LED Matrix Demo

RGB Matrix


In this (experimental) episode Shahriar demonstrates two embedded-electronic circuits available for purchase from Sparkfun Electronics. The demos illustrate some of the capabilities of these circuits along with a short instruction on how to interface and operate them. All the code for the AHRS demo and the RGB Matrix demo are available to download.

The first demo is of a 9-degree of freedom (9-DoF) sensor board equipped with three dimension of linear acceleration (accelerometer), angular acceleration (gyroscope) and magnetometer. Using the combined information from these sensors an Attitude and Heading Reference System (AHRS) data can be extracted. The demo shows this system in action using customized Matlab functions. 

The second demo demonstrates the ease of use of an RGB LED Matrix equipped with an SPI interface. A sample C code written for a Microchip PIC18F2455 is used to draw some simple animations.

This is an experimental episode to judge the level of interest in these type of demo videos. Please leave feedback!


Op-Amps, PWM and Ignition Coils Tutorial



In this episode Shahriar discusses methods for generating a pulse-width-modulated (PWM) signal entirely in the analog domain by employing operational-amplifiers (Op-Amps). A total of four op-amps from a single power supply are used in unity-gain negative feedback, astable positive feedback, integrator and open-loop comparator configurations. The theory of operation as well as measurement are also presented. This episode also includes a quiz. Please post your answers in the comment section.

As a final experiment, an ignition coil is used to generate in excess of 20k volts! The combination of the PWM circuit and the ignition coil provides a stand-alone fully analog high voltage power supply.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3: