Amplifier Stability and Ruggedness Testing

Introduction

Automated impedance tuners are ideally suited for testing the stability and ruggedness of completed (50Ω matched) amplifiers and completed radios. In this case, the tuner is not used to match the DUT, it is used to stress the amplifier thereby testing its functionality under non-ideal conditions.

Typically, a series of constant VSWR circles (2:1, 3:1, 5:1…) will be presented to the completed amplifier and its performance will be measured under each condition. Degradation testing can also be performed by stressing an amplifier under extreme conditions (i.e. 20:1 VSWR) and seeing how it performs when returned to 50Ω.

Stability and ruggedness testing can be implemented by using either manual or automated impedance tuners or electronic solid state tuners.

Manual impedance tuners can be used to manually vary the VSWR presented to the amplifier. Slide- screw tuners are ideal for this application, where adjusting the tuner’s RF probe (slug) will result in an increased VSWR, and varying the horizontal position along the slabline will result in a phase change.

Automated impedance tuners can be used to automatically vary the VSWR presented to the amplifier. Automated tuners controlled via USB and an associated DLL, or via TCP/IP (Ethernet) and direct ASCII commands. Tuning is achieved at the amplifier reference plane by de-embedding losses through interface cables or test fixtures and taking into account load terminations.

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