Tektronix today introduced the AWG5200 Series arbitrary waveform generators, which offer a 10-GS/s sample rate, 16-bit resolution, and up to eight channels per unit along with support for multiple-unit synchronization.

The instruments target “go wide” technologies like MIMO, EW and radar applications, and quantum computing, according to Kip Pettigrew, product marketing manager.

AWG5200 Series arbitrary waveform generator (Courtesy of Tektronix)

In the field of general electronic test, he said, standards are changing fast, leaving traditional test-and-measurement approaches behind, even as legacy standards continue to demand support. Meanwhile, technologies like MIMO require independent high-bandwidth RF streams.

For military and government applications, he said, existing solutions lack the fidelity and precision required to respond to adaptive threats, whereas custom solutions are expensive compared with COTS. And as is the case for general-purpose test, legacy tasks aren’t going away.

And finally, Pettigrew said, as physicists race to build high Q-bit quantum computers, they are finding that existing solutions aren’t meeting their fidelity, latency, and scalability requirements for controlling Q-bits with precision pulsed microwave signals from multiple independent RF channels. Quantum computing and its associated industries are expected to reach $26 billion by 2020, he said.

The new AWG5200 Series represents Tektronix’s latest initiative to address the challenges. It includes a flexible waveform generation plug-in suite with comprehensive coverage for a variety of standards and digital modulation techniques. It also lowers the cost of ownership for complex multi-signal environments starting at a list price of about $11,000 per channel for the eight-channel instrument.

At the heart of the AWG5200 series instruments are new high-performance DACs that offer a mix of speed and resolution within a fully integrated product package. With its DAC cores, the AWG can directly generate highly detailed RF/EW signals or the complex pulse trains used in advanced research. The 16-bit vertical resolution, Pettigrew said, compares with alternatives offering 14-bit resolution.

RF/radar/EW signal generation

For military and government applications, Pettigrew said, the instrument delivers accurate replication of real-world signals with a low noise floor. A variety of waveform-generation plugins support fast waveform design iteration times. Digital upconversion functionality coupled with a built-in I/Q modulator provides a wide VSG-like RF output range without the need for additional equipment. In addition, he said, digital interpolation and numerically controlled oscillators enable direct generation of complex RF signals with increased playback times.

Notable features of the AWG5200 include eight independent channels with better than 10-ps channel-to-channel skew. Each of the AWG5200’s channels have independent paths out, individual amplification, separate sequencing, up-conversion, and dedicated memory, and they can be controlled independently without cross talk or limitations on any channels performance.  The only common factor is that all channels share a common clock; alternatively, users can input an external reference clock.

This level of independence and flexibility along with 16-bit resolution, less than 2-μs latency, and fast rise times make the AWG5200 suitable for generating complex, real-world environments, testing phased arrays, simulating objects of interest, or replacing older equipment with new COTS solutions.

It also allows RF designers to consolidate signal generation using direct signal generation techniques and eliminating the need for specialized—and costly—signal-generation equipment. RF designers can also leverage a library of plugins for generating waveforms, predistorting waveforms for optimal performance, or automating tests using MATLAB scripts. The AWG5200 is also code-compatible with previous generation Tektronix AWGs.

Quantum computing and advanced research

AWG5200 Series AWG in a quantum-computing application (Courtesy of Tektronix)

Signal generation is becoming increasingly important in a range of advanced research applications, Pettigrew said, including quantum computing, nano/micro technology development, biomedical applications, and physics. However, high-performance signal generators are expensive, inflexible, and often still cannot meet fidelity, latency, and synchronization needs. In response, some researchers have turned to home-built equipment that is uncalibrated, unstable, and lacks support. And none of the current alternatives can scale without additional effort or money.

Pettigrew explained that in quantum computing, for example, scalability is a key requirement as researchers need the ability to send dozens of synchronized signals to quantum compute cores. For additional scalability, multiple AWG5200 units can be synchronized to provide unlimited channel count. The fully integrated platform, he said, allows for faster waveform loading and cleaner RF performance. In addition, the AWG5200 offers up to 32 digital channels for flexible triggering of additional test equipment.

Finally, he said, the instruments come with SourceXpress software, which allows users to create waveforms and control their AWGs remotely. The software runs on Windows 7 and later host PCs and interfaces with a library of waveform-creation plugins, including Generic RF Waveform Creator, Radar Waveform Creator, OFDM Waveform Creator, and Optical Waveform Creator. Other plugins address multitone, chirp, and notch creation, precompensation, S-parameters, and high-speed serial functions.

The AWG5200 is available for order now with delivery beginning this quarter. The eight-channel instrument has a starting price of $82,000.

AWG targets quantum-computing, radar, EW applications
Rick Nelson
Rick became Executive Editor for EE in 2011. Previously he served on several publications, including EDN and Vision Systems Design, and has received awards for signed editorials from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He began as a design engineer at General Electric and Litton Industries and earned a BSEE degree from Penn State.