National Instruments, BAE Systems and Phase Matrix are launching 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 is based on five new 3U PXI Express-compatible RF/microwave downconverter modules that can operate over a frequency range of 100kHz-26.5GHz. The instrument also uses a National Instruments PXI Express chassis, controllers and intermediate frequency (IF) digitiser modules as well as NI LabVIEW graphical development software for host and FPGA-based signal processing.
Robert Wade Lowdermilk, Engineering Fellow at BAE Systems, says: "By working with National Instruments and Phase Matrix, we have developed a high-performance, next-generation RF synthetic instrument that supports frequencies exceeding 26GHz. 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 has 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-2.9GHz, 2.7GHz-26.5GHz and 100kHz-26.5GHz. The modules use programmable input signal conditioning in the form of pre-selection filtering in the 2.7GHz-26.5GHz frequency range with bandwidths of 40MHz and 120MHz and an input attenuator that can be programmed from 0-70dB in 10dB steps. The local oscillator module switching speed is less than 1ms and provides rapid RF/microwave frequency translation when used with PXI Express digitisers 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.
Next-generation test and measurement systems
Michael N Granieri, Vice President of Advanced Programs and Business Development at Phase Matrix, says: "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. 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 PXI modules that National Instruments has developed for RF and communications applications including the NI PXIe-5122 100MS/s, 100MHz dual-channel digitiser and NI PXI-5152 2 GS/s, 300MHz digitiser/oscilloscope. Additionally, engineers and scientists can take advantage of the LabVIEW intuitive graphical programming environment and the software's library of digital signal processing (DSP) functions to accelerate system development.
Tim Fountain, Market Development Manager for Military and Aerospace at National Instruments, says: "PXI Express delivers the highest bandwidth and lowest latency of all mainstream commercial test and measurement bus technologies. We are excited to work with BAE Systems and Phase Matrix to develop a world-class test platform that delivers the power and performance of PXI Express to military and commercial RF applications."
The new downconverter modules will be available for delivery in the first quarter of 2009. Go to www.ni.com/niweek/2008/keynote/spectrum_analysis.htm to see a demonstration of the new synthetic instrument, given during the NI Week 2008 graphical system design conference. Alternatively, use the form on this page to request a callback or more information.