Applications for RF Signal Generators

What is an RF signal generator used for?

RF Signal Generators are used to generate RF and Microwave signals for a wide range of applications. Usually, the applications fall into two broad categories of test and instrumentation and RF modules designed into larger systems. Our products are designed to fill both of these categories by giving test and instrumentation quality at the lowest cost and smallest size. You can use these devices in your R&D lab or you can bolt them into your fighter jet with confidence.

Mechanically Rotating Radar on a pleasure boat

Antenna Beam Steering

RF signal generators can be an easy tool used to start testing and understanding concepts of phased array antennas and beam steering. Specifically, the SynthHD and SynthHD Pro RF signal generators have dual independent channels that allow independent control of frequency, phase and amplitude on each channel. If both channels are set to the same frequency, the phase can be adjusted in fine steps across a full 360 degrees. This allows for beam steering if driven into a two element phased array antenna.

Automated Test Equipment (ATE)

Manufacturing high-volume electronic products usually require high-speed automated test setups to make sure the product was manufactured correctly. Radio frequency products require RF Signal Generators and RF Power Detectors in these setups. Windfreak products fit well into this application due to cost, size, and power requirements. Learn more about automated testing equipment for electronics.

RF Probes Used in Circuit ATE Testing
RF Spectrum of Pulsed RF Energy

Electronic Warfare and Law Enforcement

RF Signal Generators are routinely used in electronic warfare and law enforcement for multiple applications. Size, weight, and the ability to sweep modulations included in Windfreak Technologies RF Signal Generators make them well suited for the job.

EMC Radiated Immunity Testing

It can be expensive to perform EMC Radiated Immunity testing at an FCC or CE test facility. Avoid extra costs and do what is possible in house before submitting your product for EMC testing. The SynthNV and other Windfreak products provide enough AM modulated, frequency sweeping RF power into an EMC near field probe to get enough field strength to perform IEC 61000-4-3 tests. This should allow you to find and fix interference immunity problems with your circuit at a relatively low cost.

Radiated Immunity Testing With Near Field Probe
2 tone IP3 spectrum from a SynthHD

Intermodulation Distortion Measurement

Intermodulation distortion (IM3 or IP3) measurements are important when characterizing amplifiers or mixers. The dual channel SynthHD Pro makes this test easy since it has two independent RF channels. Using an external RF Wilkinson combiner, it is possible to put two frequency tones at any frequency separation between 10MHz and 24GHz.

Medical Devices

Magnetic Resonance Imaging is probably the most well-known application of radio frequency waves in medicine. But there are many other areas for the application of RF in the field.  Some applications include tissue ablation, cutting, and cauterization at higher powers. Diathermy, hyperthermy, and other procedures help with physical therapy or aesthetic procedures that tighten skin or reduce fat. It has also been recently proven that RF can selectively kill certain viruses such as COVID (on non-biological surfaces) because the virus structure physically resonates around 8GHz, effectively shaking the virus to death.

MRI Machine
Plasma Phase

Plasma Physics

High power radio frequency waves radiated into certain gases can cause the gas to move into a plasma phase. This phase usually emits light and has been used in very bright, white spectrum, light bulbs. The process of moving from a gas to a plasma can often change the load impedance the RF sees in the gas. The Windfreak Technologies SynthNV driving a power amplifier can tune up and down the frequency band and use its RF power detector to track these impedance changes so that full power is delivered to the plasma. Without doing this it’s possible to lose the path to a full white plasma.

Quadrature LO for Image Reject Mixers

Image reject mixers remove the need to have expensive image reject filters in radio communication systems. In order to achieve this a quadrature LO is needed that can drive the in-phase and quadrature-phase mixers in the system. The dual channel SynthHD or SynthHD Pro provide a nice solution for this problem since it is possible to tune the two independent RF channels to the same frequency and amplitude then dial a 90 degrees quadrature phase shift between the two channels.  Resolution of phase and amplitude are good enough to achieve very good image rejection.

Image Reject or IQ Mixer With Quadrature LO
Microwave Signal Generators used in the IBM Q quantum computer

Quantum Computing

Traditional computing is done with binary numbers, with only a 0 for false and a 1 for true. Quantum computers use qubits and scale in processing power orders of magnitude higher than traditional computers. RF and Microwave signal generators play a key role in the construction and operation of today’s quantum computers.

Wireless Communications Systems

Radios require at least one local oscillator (LO) to up-convert and transmit, or down-convert and receive radio transmissions. For higher performance superheterodyne systems, two LO’s can be used. All Windfreak RF Signal Generators lend themselves nicely to this application. The SynthHD or SynthHD Pro lend themselves perfectly to the dual LO or superheterodyne method.

Windfreak SynthHD used in a Super Heterodyne Radio
Software Defined Radio Spectrum and Spectrogram

Software Defined Radio (SDR)

Software-defined radio, in the strictest sense, has its frequency conversion process done mathematically in the digital domain. With this method, the antenna is fed directly into a broadband analog to digital converter and a processor completes the hard work to down-convert and demodulate the RF. This is method is called direct sampling but has drawbacks. It’s possible to use a single conversion stage mixer and LO to fix some of these issues or increase the frequency range.

Using With the Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi and its standard Linux distribution have everything needed to control Windfreak Technologies products. Linux has the USB drivers. The Pi also has a UART communications port that can hook to Windfreak products that come with UART. Cutecom is a 3rd party command line tool that works well with all Windfreak RF Signal Generators.

Using a Raspberry Pi to control an RF Signal Generator