Transient RF Signal Analysis In R&D Environments

Source: Tektronix
By Tektronix

The quantity and the complexity of RF devices have both grown exponentially in recent years, and the rate of technological innovation in RF is still accelerating. As a result, the cost of RF components continues to be driven downward, leading to new applications of wireless technology in a wide variety of markets outside of the traditional military and communications industries.

RF transmitters have become so pervasive that they can be found in almost any imaginable location. In the home, consumer electronics ranging from gaming consoles to household appliances send wireless data back and forth. Medical devices such as pacemakers that are implanted in the human body transmit information to monitoring equipment using RF links. In factories and warehouses, RFID has begun to supplement traditional bar codes to track and locate objects. Automobiles have GPS navigational systems, satellite radios, integrated mobile phones, remote keyless entry devices, and even tire pressure sensors sending RF signals to the vehicle's onboard computer. This list goes on and on, and it is growing very rapidly.

As RF signals have become ubiquitous in the modern world, so too have problems with interference between the devices that generate them. Products such as mobile phones that operate in licensed spectrum must be designed not to transmit RF energy into adjacent frequency channels, which is especially challenging for complex multi-standard devices that switch between different modes of transmission and maintain simultaneous links to different network elements. Simpler devices that operate in unlicensed frequency bands must also be designed to function properly in the presence of interfering signals, and government regulations often dictate that these devices are only allowed to transmit in short bursts at low power levels.

To resist interference, avoid detection, and improve capacity, modern radar systems and commercial communications networks have become extremely complex, and both typically employ sophisticated combinations of RF techniques such as bursting, frequency hopping, code division multiple access, and adaptive modulation. Designing these types of advanced RF equipment and successfully integrating them into working systems are extremely complicated tasks.

In order to overcome all of these challenges, it is crucial for today's engineers and scientists to be able to reliably detect and characterize RF signals that change over time, something not easily done with traditional measurement tools. To address this problem, Tektronix has designed the Real-Time Spectrum Analyzer (RSA), an instrument that can trigger on RF signals, seamlessly capture them into memory, and analyze them in the frequency, time, and modulation domains.

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Technical Brief: Transient RF Signal Analysis In R&D Environments