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Automated low noise test system

Submitter: Emiel Brommer
Description: Half a year ago I've started my internship at ASTRON at the radiogroup. I got an assignment from Mark Ruiter and Erik van der Wal. My assignment was to build an automated low noise test system for measuring low noise amplifiers. These low noise amplifiers are widely used in radio telescopes, including Apertif, Lofar and SKA. This test system must be built with a spectrum analyzer.

After learning the basics of noise theory, usage of the spectrum analyzer and getting used to Linux, which was completely new to me. I started working on the test system. I connected the spectrum analyzer to the network and communicated with it with Octave, which is the open source version of Matlab. I wrote some Octave functions to make the communication easier and with these functions I wrote the final script which handles to whole measurement starting with setting up the spectrum analyzer, then reading from the spectrum analyzer and calculating the noise figure and finally present it in a nice way to the user.

On the right you can see one of my test measurements. The graph at the top shows the measured noise figure of an amplifier for two different supply voltages. At the bottom is a photo of the setup I used.

During my internship I've learned a lot, too much to enumerate here. Some highlights are working with Octave, understanding and using network protocols, using a spectrum analyzer and noise theory.

I had a very nice time at ASTRON and want to thank everyone for making that possible for me. The radiogroup received me well and I blended in easy. I would particularly like to thank Mark Ruiter and Erik van der Wal for their great support during my internship.

Thanks to you all!
Copyright: Emiel Brommer
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