16 Feb 2018

Red Pitaya releases software defined vector network analyzer

Software defined radio technology is now well established. The same approach can also be adopted for test instrumentation. It enables software to defined the type of instrument enabling a single hardware unit and accompanying computer to provide the functionality for an oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, signal generator, logic analyzer and more . . .

STEMlab from Red Pitaya is a low cost, open-source, reconfigurable instrument that is the size of a credit-card. STEMlab offers really tremendous functionality with an entry level cost of only 239 Euros plus shipping cost and cheaper to educational establishments.

Even though it does not offer the same performance as some of the top end instruments, it is nevertheless more than adequate for most applications, and can provide excellent performance in many applications. Certainly for the cost it is a real bargain.

STEMlab is based on high end FPGA technology, enabling software and hardware programming, coupled with very accurate high-end ADCs. It is customizable at the FPGA and CPU levels, so that STEMlab can process real-world signals.

Although it finds uses for hobbyists including radio hams, and for STEM teaching applications, STEMlab instruments are also being used in many commercial development applications. Here the Red Pitaya STEMlab has outperformed instruments costing thousands of dollars, and it offers considerably more flexibility.

STEMlab functionality has now been increased with a VNA new bridge module and application that enables it to function as an affordable vector network analyser, VNA. In this mode with the new module it becomes a precision measuring tool that tests the electrical performance of high frequency components at frequencies extending to 600 MHz.

To run the VNA application users need a STEMlab plus an additional VNA bridge module – both available from the Red Pitaya web store. The VNA is a contributed application that runs on Windows and Linux. It covers a frequency range of 500kHz to 62MHz, has a directivity of 42dB (typ), a dynamic range of 74dB and a noise floor of 88dBm. Software features include: plot formats (Smith chart, impedance, SWR, reference coefficient, return loss); open, short & load calibration modes; measurement export and marker readouts. Included in the VNA module box are an RF SWR bridge module in an aluminium enclosure, calibration accessories (50 ohm, open & short load) and cables.

The STEMlab application use a web browser to interface to the computer, with STEMlab providing a local server for the web browser. In this way STEMlab is able to operate with both PCs and Macs.

Commented Red Pitaya CEO Rok Mesar: “Our Vector Network Analyser running on STEMlab is great solution that enables engineers to test and optimize the performance of antennas, RF filters, RF switches, couplers and cables. It is the perfect tool for professionals seeking affordable, highly functional test and measurement equipment, educators, students, makers, hobbyists and ham radio enthusiasts.”

See more at Red Pitaya

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