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The Rog Blog is contributed by John Coonrod and various other experts from Rogers Corporation, providing technical advice and information about RF/microwave materials.

Measuring Performance Of Microwave Substrates

Circuit-board material parameters are printed on every laminate data sheet. They describe the electrical and mechanical characteristics of a PCB material, including such parameters as relative dielectric constant, dissipation factor, coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE), and thermal conductivity. Design engineers count on these values to be accurate, since their circuits depend on them. But the accuracy often depends on the test method used to measure a material parameter. Even when different laboratories perform the same test on the same material, they can obtain different results. This blog will provide a brief overview of the different tests used to evaluate a printed-circuit material’s characteristics; the next several blogs will go into greater details on specific tests, and will explain how various test results impact the way PCB materials are modeled with modern computer-aided-engineering (CAE) software tools.
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Comparing RF Circuit Material Processing Costs & Performance

Performance requirements typically guide the selection of a PCB material. Some applications may also be cost-sensitive, and require evaluation of the total costs of choosing a circuit material. This includes the cost of the material as well as costs associated with processing the material. For example, FR-4 is a low-cost material with minimal processing costs. However, its performance is also low relative to some higher-costing materials, such as PTFE- or hydrocarbon-based circuit materials, although these materials can have considerably different processing requirements and associated costs. By considering the costs of the material as well as its processing requirements, it’s possible to determine if “you get what you pay for” truly applies to circuit materials.
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When Digital Signals Reach Microwave Frequencies

Digital circuit design once had less demands. When clock speeds were 100 MHz or less, signal loss wasn’t an issue. Digital circuits, in fact, have long been designed to be more tolerant of signal level variations than analog circuits. But with digital circuits continuing to increase in speed, they are assuming more of the characteristics of analog microwave signals, and requiring more attention to design detail and even choice of PCB material as in the case of high-frequency analog circuits.
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Transmission-Line Modeling Tool: Free Downloadable Software

The old expression, “you get what you pay for,” usually holds true. Except in the case of a handy little design program called the MWI-2010 Microwave Impedance Calculator, available for free download from the Rogers Corporation website. Visitors to the DesignCon® 2011 exhibition (Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA, February 1-2, 2011) can learn more about this powerful transmission-line modeling tool by visiting Rogers at Booth 711.
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Substrate Anisotropy Affects Filter Designs

Isn’t designing a microwave filter as simple as loading parameters into a computer-aided-engineering (CAE) program? In truth, many modern CAE software tools are quite good, and can provide accurate predictions of performance when fed sufficient input data. However, most do not account for all variables influencing a high frequency filter, including the effects of anisotropic printed-circuit-board (PCB) materials. When designing RF and microwave filters, it helps to choose your PCB material wisely.
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Microstrip Versus Stripline: How To Make The Choice

Microstrip or stripline? That choice has been faced by high frequency designers for decades. Both transmission-line technologies are widely used in both active and passive microwave circuits, with excellent results. Is one approach better than the other? Before tackling such a question, it might help to know how each transmission-line technology works and what kind of demands each place on a printed circuit board (PCB) material.
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What Is Outgassing And When Does It Matter?

Outgassing is a concern for any electronic equipment intended for use in high-vacuum environments. It refers to the release of gas trapped within a solid, such as a high-frequency circuit-board material. The effects of outgassing can impact a wide range of application areas in electronics, from satellites and space-based equipment to medical systems and equipment. In space-based equipment, released gas can condense on such materials as camera lenses, rendering them inoperative. Hospitals and medical facilities must eliminate materials that can suffer outgassing to maintain a sterile environment.
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Thinner Materials Help Target Higher Frequencies

November 4, 2010 John Coonrod is a Market Development Engineer for Rogers Corporation, Advanced Circuit Materials Division. John has 23 years of experience in the Printed Circuit Board industry. About half of this time was spent in the Flexible Printed Circuit Board industry doing circuit design, applications, processing and materials engineering. The past ten years have been spent supporting circuit fabrication, providing application support and conducting electrical characterization studies of High Frequency Rigid Printed Circuit Board materials made by Rogers. John has a Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering degree from Arizona State University. Thinner printed-circuit-board (PCB) materials have some...
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Selecting Substrates For Printed-Circuit Antennas

Printed-circuit antennas must provide big performance in small packages, especially for modern fixed and mobile wireless devices. In some cases, they must provide high gain, or light weight, or handle high power levels. The choice of circuit-board laminate material plays a key role in the size and performance of a printed-circuit antenna, such as achieving maximum gain at RF and microwave frequencies. When selecting a circuit-board laminate for a printed-circuit antenna, it helps to understand how laminate material parameters relate to antenna performance.
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