Low-cost high performance pulse generators support microwave testing

November 09, 2015 // By Paul Buckley
Pico Technology has introduced the PicoSource PG900 Series pulse generators which are high-speed, low-cost instruments for use in single-ended and differential pulsed measurement applications.

The fast-transition pulse can stimulate a transmission path, device or network with a broad-spectrum signal in a single instant. Such a pulse is essential for many of the high-speed broadband measurements that we need to make; for instance in time domain reflectometry, semiconductor test, gigabit interconnect and port test, and in radar system test.

The generators are typically used to drive broad spectral content into a 50 ohm cable, connector, RF semiconductor or other device under test. The reflected or transmitted pulse can then be monitored and displayed by a broadband or sampling oscilloscope. Known as Time Domain Reflection or Transmission analysis, these techniques offer an alternative to vector and scalar network analysis. The instruments are used to speed the development, evaluation and testing of high-speed data paths such as Ethernet, USB, HDMI and SATA, and RF, radar and microwave devices, cables, networks and equipment.

Unlike traditional, bulky and expensive benchtop instruments, the PicoSource PG900 generators are compact USB devices that connect to a PC running Microsoft Windows. This gives the advantages of leading microwave performance in a compact and portable instrument, a high-resolution graphical display, and easy setup by means of keyboard, mouse or touchscreen. The low cost and portability of these instruments can bring RF and microwave test out of the lab and into the world of on-site measurement. With all these advantages, the pulse generators will have a role in the toolkit of every broadband equipment designer, installation engineer and repair technician.

Vital to the modern differential measurement challenge, the PicoSource PG900 pulse generators have deskewable differential outputs adjustable to 1 ps resolution which allows timing inequalities in test connections and fixtures to be nulled out; or the deliberate introduction of timing skew to stress-test your system. Each of the outputs can also operate in single-ended mode.

The PicoSource PG900 Series offers two triggered step-generation technologies to suit different applications. The PG911, with integral step-recovery diode outputs,