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RF synthetic instrument supports up to 26.5GHz

Posted: 11 Sep 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:downconverter module? synthetic instrument? RF application?

26.5GHz synthetic instrument

BAE Systems, National Instruments and Phase Matrix Inc. have released a next-generation, 26.5GHz synthetic instrument based on the PXI platform for military and commercial RF and microwave applications.

Synthetic instrumentation is a subset of virtual instrumentation that combines modular hardware with a software platform to create user-defined test and measurement systems. The new synthetic instrument developed by the companies is based on five new 3U PXI Express-compatible RF/microwave downconverter modules that can operate over a frequency range of 100kHz to 26.5GHz. The instrument also uses NI PXI Express chassis, controllers and intermediate frequency (IF) digitizer modules as well as NI LabVIEW graphical development software for host and FPGA-based signal processing.

"By working with National Instruments and Phase Matrix, we have developed a high-performance, next-generation RF synthetic instrument that supports frequencies exceeding 26GHz," said Robert Wade Lowdermilk, engineering fellow at BAE. "PXI Express provides the data throughput and control signals required to support the increased bandwidth necessary for RF and microwave applications. By using NI FPGA-based hardware and LabVIEW, we have been able to quickly develop multiple high-performance measurement modes for several applications."

Phase Matrix developed the family of downconverter modules, which consists of an RF input conditioner, microwave band input, low band input, local oscillator and an IF output conditioner. The five modules can be configured into six primary configurations operating over the frequency ranges of 100kHz to 2.9GHz, 2.7GHz to 26.5GHz and 100kHz to 26.5GHz. The modules use programmable input signal conditioning in the form of pre-selection filtering in the 2.7GHz to 26.5GHz frequency range with bandwidths of 40- and 120MHz and an input attenuator that can be programmed from 0dB to 70dB in 10dB steps. The local oscillator module switching speed is less than 1 ms and provides rapid RF/microwave frequency translation when used with PXI Express digitizers and controllers. The modules also operate in both narrowband IF (21.4MHz) and wideband IF (250MHz) modes. Additionally, the modules are intended for use with LabVIEW, the NI Modulation Toolkit and the NI Spectral Measurements Toolkit.

"The new PXI downconverter modules from Phase Matrix can be used in portable synthetic instrument test systems that can be programmed to perform a suite of common RF/microwave signal analysis functions or emulate older or obsolete instruments," said Michael N. Granieri, VP of advanced programs and business development at Phase Matrix. "These modules deliver the performance required for next-generation RF and microwave test and measurement systems."

The new PXI Express-compatible RF and microwave downconverter family complements the wide breadth of PXI modules National Instruments has developed for RF and communications applications, including the NI PXIe-5122 100MSps, 100MHz dual-channel digitizer and NI PXI-5152 2GSps, 300MHz digitizer/oscilloscope. Additionally, engineers and scientists can take advantage of the intuitive graphical programming of LabVIEW and the software's extensive library of digital signal processing functions to accelerate system development.

The new downconverter modules will be available for delivery in Q1 09.

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