## Tuesday, March 31, 2015

### When is 64,000 points too many?

Hi everybody!

This month's blog post is based off a customer question that we received this month.  The question was around arbitrary waveforms (arbs), the number of points for the arb, and waveform fidelity.  I have spoken about arbs in the past: click me for Matt's old blog post.  Just to quickly reiterate, there are two options for arbs on the N6705 DC Power Analyzer and the N7900 Advanced power System. There is the Constant Dwell (CD) Arb that allows up to 64,000 point with a minimum Dwell time of 10 us per point and there is the standard List Arb that allows up to 512 points with a dwell as low as 1 us per point.

The question that we are trying to answer today is: When is 512 points more than 64,000 points?  It is an interesting question to think about.  It is definitely not true in cases where you have a non-repeating waveform.  The CD Arb will always be the preferred method there and will give you the best fidelity (smallest dwell times).

The answer is when you have long DC levels in your waveform.  Let's look at the proposed waveform below (please pardon the picture, I hand drew this on my tablet; also note that it is not to scale):

If you look at this waveform, the total time is 11.5 s.  It's a pretty simple waveform that goes from 4 V to 6 V with a 0.05 s ramp between the two values.  We need to pay attention to those times.

Lets with the math behind programming a CD Arb.  With a CD arb, there is a single dwell time so you basically sample the waveform 64000 times.  Lets use that to calculate a dwell time:

11.05 s/64000 = 172.66 us

This means that every point is going to last 172.66 us, no matter if it is in the constantly changing ramp or at a DC level.  This means that when the waveform is at 6 V for 10 s, you will use 57,918 points. That is 90% of your points just sitting at 6V!  For the 0.05 s ramp, you will only be using 290 points.  The ramp is where the waveform is actually changing but due to the nature of how the CD Arb works, you cannot increase the number of points allocated to the ramp.

Let's take a look at the 512 point list now.  We know that the first point of the list will be 4 V for 1 s and that the last point of the list will be 6 V for 10 s.  That leaves us with 510 points to do the 0.05 s ramp which results in s dwell time of 98 us.  This will give us more points in the ramp area and a better looking waveform overall.

That is all I have for this month.  Please feel free to use the comments if you'd like to get in touch with us.

## Monday, March 30, 2015

### Big resistors needed for high-power testing

Eighteen months ago, in September of 2013, Keysight (we were Agilent at the time) introduced a new high-power series of power supplies: the N8900 series of 5 kW, 10 kW, and 15 kW autoranging DC power supplies. I posted about those here.

Recently, our environmental lab was doing some testing on one of the 15 kW models that required them to use a low-noise load on the output. They have electronic loads that they can connect to the output to dissipate this level of power, but to be sure they were getting the lowest noise possible, they wanted to use resistors to load the output instead of the electronic loads. Since I was amused by the size of the resistors, I thought I’d capture the moment and share a picture with you.

The picture shows one of our R&D engineers in our environmental lab adjusting the output voltage of a 15 kW N8900 series power supply. Notice that these power supplies pack a lot of power (15 kW) in their small 3 U high package (the white box under the fan). The four big green things on the rack are resistors. The two on the top rack are each rated for 15 kW while the two on the lower rack are each rated for 20 kW. So that’s a total of 70 kW of resistive power! Clearly, these are not your father’s ¼ W resistors!

Even with 70 kW of power dissipation capability, and “only” 15 kW available from our power supply, a big fan was needed to keep the resistors cool…..or perhaps I should say “less hot” since they still get very hot. Of course, with an extra 15 kW of power being dissipated in the room, the room temperature was going up. But that was a good thing since we are still experiencing cold weather here in New Jersey despite the fact that spring started ten days ago. So the extra heat felt good!

Before we came out with the N8900 series of high-power supplies, Matt had posted about some things around his desk that included a 2500 W resistor (click here for his post). At that time, that was a high-power resistor. But now with these 15 kW supplies, you can see we had to go much bigger! And given that these supplies can be paralleled to 100 kW or more….well….I look forward to seeing what our R&D group and environment lab engineers come up with to do resistive load testing on those. Submarine-sized resistors, perhaps? We’ll see….

## Monday, March 23, 2015

### Use slew rate control to cleanly power up and reduce peak inrush current of your DUTs

Previously on Watt’s Up? a colleague wrote about how the current limit setting affects a power supply’s voltage response time (click here to review). In this posting he clearly shows how a low current limit setting can greatly slow down the output voltage turn on response time when powering up your DUT.

While this is generally true and good advice, especially for basic performance power supplies, there are additional things to consider when working with high performance power supplies models, as you will see.

Many basic performance power supplies tend to have larger output filter capacitors in order to achieve lower output noise performance. A disadvantage of having a large output capacitor is that it slows down the output voltage response speed of the power supply. Basic performance power supplies can have turn on response times on the order of a 100 milliseconds.

High performance power supplies operate by a somewhat different set of rules. In comparison to basic performance power supplies they typically have much smaller output capacitors and they are designed to have output turn on and turn off response times on the order of a millisecond or less.

However, absolute fastest is not always the best and that is why fast, high performance power supplies also usually incorporate an output voltage slew rate control as well. This allows you to optimize the output turn on and turn off speed for your particular application. This lets you take advantage of the faster output speed you have available, without it being overkill and cause other problems.

The two most common problems that arise when powering up and powering down many DUTs are related to charging and discharging the input filter capacitor incorporated into them. They are:
• High peak inrush (and discharge) currents due to the high dV/dt slew rate being applied
• Power supply CC-CV mode cross over issues resulting from the high peak inrush current

To illustrate, the turn on characteristic of our N6762A power supply was captured when powering up a load consisting of a 1,200 microfarad capacitor in parallel with a 10 ohm resistor. The N6762A was set to 10 volts and its voltage slew rate set to maximum.  This was captured using the N6762A’s digitizing voltage and current readback together with the 14585A software, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: N6762A power supply turn on response set to maximum slew rate into parallel RC load

The vertical markers have been placed at zero and maximum voltage points of the turn on ramp. The peak inrush current reaches 3.7 amps and the peak voltage overshoots to 11.06 volts, 10% over the 10 volt setting. The overshoot is a result of the power supply crossing over into current limit during the ramp up and allowing the voltage to rise to 11.06 volts before the voltage control loop regains control to bring the output back down to 10 volts. It also takes a little while for the voltage to settle after the peak overshoot. Both the overshoot voltage and peak inrush current can be problems when powering up a DUT. These occur as a result of having too fast of a voltage slew rate when powering the DUT.

To address the problem we then set the N6762A’s slew rate to a more acceptable value of 2,000 volts/second. The turn on voltage and current were again captured and are shown in Figure 2. As can be seen the voltage overshoot is eliminated and the inrush current has been reduced to a more moderate 3.3 amps.

Figure 2: N6762A power supply turn on response set to 2,000 V/s slew rate into parallel RC load

So in closing high performance power supplies have a significant advantage in their output response speed, in comparison to basic power supplies. And while faster is usually better, absolute fastest may not be best, and this applies to the output response time of power supplies as well! But by having the ability to set the output slew rate on high performance power supplies gives you the ability to optimize its speed for your given application, providing for the best possible outcome possible!

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## Wednesday, March 11, 2015

### Comparing effects of using pulsed and steady state power to illuminate a high brightness LED

I was having a discussion here with a colleague about the merits of powering a high brightness LED (HBLED) using pulsed power versus using steady state DC power.

My opinion was: “Basically, amperes in proportionally equates to light flux out, so you will get about the same amount of illumination whether it is pulsed or DC.”

His argument was: “Because the pulses will be brighter, it’s possible the effective illumination that’s perceived will be brighter. Things appear to be continuous when discrete fixed images are updated at rates above thirty times a second, and that should apply to the pulsed illumination as well!”

I countered: “It will look the same and, if anything, will be less efficient when pulsed!”

So instead of continuing our debate we ran a quick experiment. I happened to have some HBLEDs so I hooked one up to an N6781A DC source measure module housed in an N6705B DC Power Analyzer sitting at my desk, shown in Figure 1. The N6781A has excellent current sourcing characteristics regardless whether it is DC or a dynamic waveform, making it a good choice for this experiment.

Figure 1: Powering up an HBLED

First we powered it up with a steady state DC current of 100 mA. At this level the HBLED had a forward voltage drop of 2.994 V and resulting power of 0.2994 W, as seen in Figure 2, captured using the companion 14585A control and analysis software.

Figure 2: Resulting HBLED voltage and power when powered with 100 mA steady state DC current

We then set the N6781A to deliver a pulsed current of 200 mA with a 50% duty cycle, so that its average current was 100 mA. The results were again captured using the 14585A software, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Resulting HBLED voltage and power when powered with 200 mA 50% DC pulsed current

Switching back and forth between steady state DC and pulsed currents, my colleague agreed, the brightness appeared to be comparable (just as I had expected!).  But something more interesting to note is the average current, voltage, and power. These values were obtained as shown in Figure 3 by placing the measurement markers over an integral number of waveform cycles. The average current was 100 mA, as expected. Note however that the average voltage is lower, at 2.7 V, while the average power is higher, at 0.3127 W! At first the lower average voltage together with higher average power would seem to be a contradiction. How can that be?

First, in case you did not notice, the product of the RMS voltage and RMS current are 0.3897 W which clearly does not match our average power value displayed. What, another contradiction? Why is that? Multiplying RMS voltage and RMS current will give you the average power for a linear resistive load but not for a non-linear load like a HBLED. The average power needs to be determined by taking an overall average of the power over time computed on a point-by-point basis, which is how it is done within the 14585A software as well as within our power products that digitize the voltage and current over time. Second, the average voltage is lower because it drops down towards zero during periods of zero current. However it is greater during the periods when 200 mA is being sourced through the HBLED and these are the times where power is being consumed.

So here, by using pulsed current, our losses ended up being 4.4% greater when powered by the comparable steady state current. These losses are mainly incurred as a result of greater resistive drop losses in the HBLED occurring at the higher current level.

There is supposed to be one benefit however of using pulsed power when powering HBLEDs. At different steady state DC current levels there is some shift in their output light spectrum. Using pulsed current provides dimming control while maintaining a constant light spectrum. This prevents minor color shifts at different illumination levels. Although I would probably never notice it!

## Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hi everybody!

My blog post this month is the result of a recent customer question.  The question was: how do you synchronize measurements with list transients?  The short answer is that you use the built in digitizer to generate enough points to sample the measurements over the entire transient.  The rest of this blog will provide the long answer.  The program that I am using here was written for a N6762A DC Power Module but the technique will work with any power supply that has a built in digitizer such as the Advanced Power System or any N6700 module with option 054.

For simplicity’s sake, we are going to use a 5 point list.  The voltage steps are 1 V, 2 V, 3 V, 4 V, and 5 V and the dwell times are 0.1 s, 0.2 s, 0.3 s, 0.4 s, and 0.5 s.  Let’s first set the list up (please note that all programming is done in VB.net with VISA-COM):

The next thing to do is to set up the measurement system.  We need to figure out the total number of points that we need measure so that we can cover the entire transient.  The first thing that we need to do is to calculate the total time of the list transient (you can even do this in your program):

The total time of our transient is 1.5 s.  Now we need to use this to figure out the number of points. I am going to choose a measurement interval of 40.96 us.  This means that we want to take a measurement every 40.96 us for 15 s.  To get the total number of points, you need to divide the total transient time by the measurement time interval:

I’m going to round down and use 36,621 points.  I’m also going to tell the power supply to use the binary data format because as we know from my previous blog posts, this is the fastest way to read back data.   Here is the code to set up the digitizer:

We will set our trigger source to bus for both the transient system and the acquire system:

Next we initiate both systems:

Once the initiate is complete, we send a trigger:

This will start both the list transient and the digitizer.  After everything is completed, we can fetch our measured voltage array:

This array will have all of our measurements.

I hope that this has been useful, have a good month everyone.

## Thursday, February 26, 2015

### When measurements and mathematics agree, I’m happy!

I have been an electrical engineer my entire career which will span 35 years in June (yikes….I’m too young to be this old!). Despite all of that time, plus the 4 years of undergraduate study before that and 3 years to get my MSEE at night while working full time during the day, I am still amused by some simple engineering principles. When the measurements I make in the real world completely agree with the hard-core theoretical mathematics I learned in school, I am amused.  Perhaps this should simply be expected (it is), but for some reason, I am still delighted when it happens. I recently had one of those simple experiences that I want to share with you today.

I was exploring some of the features on our new Keysight PA2201A IntegraVision power analyzer to better understand its operation and the applications for this new line of power measurement instrumentation. I had a simple desk lamp with a 100 W incandescent light bulb plugged into the wall outlet (120 Vac, 60 Hz here in the United States) and ran the voltage and current to the power analyzer. Given that the bulb presents a nearly pure resistive load to the sinusoidal voltage, as expected, the current was also a sine wave and in phase with the voltage. The power analyzer easily displays these measured waveforms.

What I never had an opportunity to see before was a visualization of the power waveform. For some reason, in all of my 35 years working in the power business, I never looked at a power waveform for a simple resistive load. Voltage? Sure! Current? Many times!! But power? Nope. The IntegraVision power analyzer shows voltage, current, and power waveforms as a typical display (this can be configured in quite a few other ways as well). So I was looking at the waveforms shown below.

The first thing I noticed about the power waveform was that it was sinusoidal and it never went below zero. This quickly made sense to me since I did consider the bulb to be purely resistive meaning it is consuming power 100% of the time, so all of the power flowing to the bulb had to be positive. The bulb is never pushing power back to the AC line as would happen with a reactive load especially for a purely reactive load such as a pure capacitor or inductor. If the load (the bulb) was not purely resistive, some of the power waveform would have dipped below the zero power line indicating that sometimes the load was absorbing power and sometimes it was providing power back to the line.

The next thing I noticed about the power waveform was that its phase was synchronized with the voltage and current, and it showed twice the frequency. Again, this quickly made sense since the power is simply the product of the voltage and the current [P(t) = V(t) * I(t)]. So the positive peaks have to line up (they do), the zero crossings of the voltage and current have to align with zero watts on the power waveform (they do), and the negative peaks in the voltage and current have to line up with another positive peak in the power since a negative voltage times a negative current yields a positive power (they do). This, of course, was the reason for the power waveform being twice the frequency of the voltage and current waveforms.

So I next decided to check the math behind the waveforms. I admit….I had to look up the trigonometric identity, but it was worth it! Since both the voltage and current waveforms are sine waves, and the power is the product of these, I looked up the identity for sine squared:
The voltage is a 120 Vrms, 60 Hz sine wave:
The current is 99.8 VA / Vrms = 0.832 Arms:
The power is V(t) * I(t):
Applying the above sine squared identity:
So you can see there is a 99.8 W fixed offset in the power waveform from which a cosine function is subtracted. The frequency of the cosine is 120 Hz (double the 60 Hz voltage and current waveforms). All of this completely agrees with the power waveform measured by the IntegraVision power analyzer. I am always thrilled when the math agrees with the measurements no matter how simple it is! How about you?

## Tuesday, February 24, 2015

### Two New Keysight Source Measure Units (SMUs) for Battery Powered Device and Functional Test

Over the past few years here on “Watt’s Up?” I have posted several articles and application pieces on performing battery drain analysis for optimizing run time on mobile wireless devices. The key product we provide for this application space is the N6781A 20V, +/-3A, 20W source measure module for battery drain analysis. A second related product we offer is the N6782A 20V, +/-3A, 20W source measure module for functional test. The N6782A has a few less key features used for battery drain analysis but is otherwise the same as the N6781A. As a result the N6782A is preferred product for testing many of the components used in mobile devices, where the extra battery drain analysis features are not needed. These products are pictured in Figure 1. While at first glance they may appear the same, one thing to note is the N6781A has an extra connector which is independent voltmeter input. This is used for performing a battery run-down test, one of a number of aspects of performing battery drain analysis. Details on these two SMUs can be found on by clicking on: N6781A product page.  N6782A product page,

Figure 1: Keysight N6781A SMU for battery drain analysis and N6782A for functional test

These products have greatly helped customers through their combination of very high performance specialized sourcing and measurement capabilities tailored for addressing the unique test challenges posed by mobile wireless devices and their components. However, things have continued to evolve (don’t they always!). Today’s mobile devices, like smart phones, tablets and phablets, have an amazing amount of capabilities to address all kinds of applications. However, their power consumption has grown considerably as a result. They are now utilizing much larger batteries to support this greater power consumption in order to maintain reasonably acceptable battery run-time. Optimizing battery life continues to be a critical need when developing these products. With their higher power however, there is in turn a greater need for higher power SMUs to power them during test and development. In response we have just added two new higher power SMUs to this family; the N6785A 20V, +/-8A, 80W source measure module for battery drain analysis and the N6785A 20V, +/-8A, 80W source measure module for functional test. These products are pictured in Figure 2. Details on these two new higher power SMUs can be found on by clicking on: N6785A product page.  N6786A product page.

Figure 2: Keysight N6785A SMU for battery drain analysis and N6786A for functional test

A press release went out about these two new SMUs yesterday; Click here to view. With their greater current and power capability, customers developing and producing these advanced mobile wireless devices and their components now have a way to test them to their fullest, not being encumbered by power limitations of lower power SMUs.

This is exciting to me having been working within the industry for quite some time now, helping customers increase battery life by improving how their devices make more efficient use of the battery’s energy. A key part of this has been by using our existing solutions for battery drain analysis to provide critical insights on how their devices are making use of the battery’s energy.  There is a lot of innovation in the industry to make mobile wireless devices operate with even greater efficiency at these higher power and current levels. There is no other choice if they are going to be successful. Likewise, it is great to see continuing to play a key role in this trend in making it a success!

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