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Spectrum analyzer captures transient RF behavior

Posted: 16 Oct 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Tektronix? spectrum analyzer? RSA6100A? RF? RF signal?

Digital RF engineers who analyze and troubleshoot must correlate results from various measurements in both frequency and time domains, including sophisticated modulation and pulse analyses. That can involve massive data and require top-flight expertise for configuring acquisition and analysis parameters. In the past, spectrum analyzer users had no choice but to manually configure hardware parameters for each measurement.

Now, Tektronix has applied its waveform image processor technology to transform volumes of real-time data and produce an RF spectrum presentation that reveals previously unseen RF signals and signal anomalies.

"The combination of exploding technical capabilities brought about by digital RF combined with an equal increase in demand for more functionality and mobility has created unprecedented innovations in wireless communications," said Rick King, VP of real-time spectrum analyzer product line at Tektronix.

As a result, digital RF signals carry complex modulation and change from one instant to the next, hopping frequencies, spiking briefly and then disappearing. Tektronix thinks it has made a step function in signal analysis with its RSA6100A series of real-time spectrum analyzers by stretching its real-time bandwidth to 110MHz, while simultaneously exhibiting a spurious-free dynamic range of 73dB. Tektronix implemented the internal real-time digital processor in an FPGA to achieve this performance and to "catch" events as small as 24?s while analyzing pulses as narrow as 50ns.

"You can pick up signals you never knew existed," said Todd Smith, president and CEO of X-com Systems, a defense contractor that provides advanced technology and custom circuitry for surveillance needs of the military and intelligence community. X-com, a Tektronix value-added reseller, develops custom RF test solutions targeting tactical radio and software-defined radio, and software for waveform creation and signal analysis in radar and electronic-warfare applications.

The waveform image processor displays the real-time spectrum by processing more than 48,000 spectrum measurements per second, compared with a maximum of 50 per second for all other analyzers, the company said.

Wireless expert Jeff Reed of the Willis G. Worcester Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University said, "Tektronix's RSA6100A is a leap forward in spectrum analysis because it captures transient RF behavior and measures RF out-of-band spurs."

The waveform image processor produces nearly three orders of magnitude improvement in the spectrum processing rate compared with the fastest available swept spectrum and vector signal analyzers, said Tektronix. By continuously converting time domain signals into the frequency domain, the processor provides a way to display frequent and infrequent events, distilling real-time computing Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) signals at frame rates far above what is perceivable by the human eye and converting them into an intuitive, full-motion display. For example, in operation, a 14GHz analog RF signal is transformed into 300MSps that passes through a discrete Fourier transform to yield up to 48,828 DFT data spectrums. Transmitted through a pixel buffer memory, this data provides a pixel histogram of 1,464 DFTs/frame and is output as a temperature gradient at 33fps.

- Nicolas Mokhoff
EE Times-Europe

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