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Using Calibration to Optimize Performance in Crucial Measurements
The AMTA Conference was last week in Boston, MA (November 16-21) at the Park Plaza hotel and I visited the event on Mon. including the keynote speech by Dr. Eric D. Evans (Director of MIT Lincoln Labs) about radar measurement activities within their organization. I was surprised at the wide array of RF/microwave projects they are working on. He started with a joke that you may have heard but I had not, “What washes up on tiny beaches? Microwaves!” Dr. Evans stated that Lincoln Labs is concentrating on key technology enablers such as digital sensors, portable software, open system architectures, sensor/network sidecars and online processors. He said they are still innovating in hardware but spend more effort these days on software. They use rapid proto-typing methods (3 months from inception to hardware) and typically transfer the technology to industry for production.
He also told a story about how they needed to test a fast moving antenna so they bolted it to a pole that was mounted on a rented Corvette only to find that it reflected too much power. So they ended up using a bread truck which reflected 30 dB less signal than the Corvette due to its shape.
There were also a few talks about the European Antenna Network - how they are structured to provide support for antenna research and what projects are underway. A very interesting and comprehensive set of programs from Europe and many of them have global participation. I loved the comment that proposals that funding requests for an “antenna project” don’t get as much attention as if you call it a “sensor project”. I guess you need a sexier title some times to get their attention so we might have to re-name the conference.
One presentation that caught my eye was “Modeling and Simulation of Carbon Nanotube Antennas – Computational Challenges.” The researchers were looking ahead to when chips will need to communicate with each other wirelessly but the models indicated that carbon nanotubes would not function very well as antennas and actual measurements proved this to be the case. They are going to investigate further to see if there are ways to manufacture them as functioning devices.
I liked the exhibition layout on the same floor with the conference and individual rooms for the vendors who had larger booth spaces. The individual rooms featured ETS-Lindgren, Satimo/Orbit RF, MI Technologies, Rohde & Schwarz, Microwave Engineering & Manufacturing Corporation and Star Dynamics. There were two other larger rooms on each side with multiple vendors plus a few table tops (including Microwave Journal and Conformity magazine). Below are some of the product highlights from the exhibition.
Agilent Technologies was there displaying their N5264A PNA-X measurement receiver for antenna testing that can do 400,000 points per sec data acquisition simultaneously on five receiver channels and has options for a fast-CW mode which enables a 500 million point data buffer and can include a built-in 26.5 GHz LO source. The receiver is compatible with Agilent's MXG or PSG signal sources as well as its existing 85309A distributed frequency converter and the 85320A/B mixers. They also had representatives from their onsite support services and training groups.
Aeroflex had its integrated microwave assemblies on display along with their model 2200 and 2500 OEM modular synthesizers. The 2200 covers 10 MHz to 18.4 GHz with sub-micro sec switching speed and level correction. The 2500 offers modular construction, wide frequency range, amplitude leveling with hop states faster than 1 megahop per sec.
ETS-Lindgren had a variety of products in their booth including information about their new quad-ridge horn antenna that can work down to 100 MHz and up to 1.5 GHz (previous design only went down to 400 MHz). It has a unique design with no feed cavity and can be assembled on site (it is quite large at 74 inches in diameter).
Elcom Technologies was showing off their SDR/DSP receivers and downconverters for SIGINT applications including 6 new models. They have the SIR 1000 HF receiver, SIR 2000 narrowband receiver, SIR 3000 wideband receiver, SIR 4000 microwave receiver and SIDC 6000 microwave downconverter in this series of products.
Herley-CTI was there with their direct and indirect synthesizer lines. The series DS direct synthesizers are wide band (.01 - 40.96 GHz) with very low phase noise and fast switching speed (from 250 nano sec). The series BBFS indirect synthesizers cover .5 - 20.48 GHz with low phase noise and switching speed of 50 micro sec.
MI Technologies was showing off their new helicoidal scanning system optimized for elongated antennas. They presented a couple of papers including one entitled “Experimental Validation of the NF-FF Transformation with Helicoidal Scanning Suitable for Elongated Antennas.” This paper shows validation of non-redundant measurements from a helix scan compared with those from a classical cylindrical grid measurement. They also had on hand their networked controller and family of position control products.
Ophir RF was featuring their broadband power amplifiers including high power systems covering up to 4.2 GHz and with up to 1000 W, their new broadband family of 2 to 6 GHz amplifiers ranging from 9 to 50 W, and their banded power amplifier systems covering up to 6 GHz with up to 500 W of power.
Rohde & Schwarz had a wide variety of instruments on display including their ZVT series VNA with up to 8 ports covering 300 kHz to 20 GHz, the ZVA series VNA with options up to 50 GHz and excellent measurement speed of less than 3.5 micro sec, and the FSH handheld spectrum analyzer for mobile applications.
Satimo/Orbit RF was featuring their extensive line of multi-probe antenna measurement systems with a combination of electronic and mechanical scanning including probes for .8-6, 6-18 and 18-40 GHz.
Star Dynamics is a recent spinoff from Aeroflex and was displaying their BlueImage R/T real time radar signal processing solution, BlueMax G6 instrumentation radar system, and SARBAR G2 hand-held imaging radar.
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