Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Frequency sweep

In Hardware on Mar 9, 2013 at 00:01

This is the continuation of yesterday’s post about decoupling capacitors. As promised, some more information now about a test setup which can visualise some interesting – and quite surprising – effects.

The first part of the idea is to generate a “sweep” across a frequency range, i.e. a signal which increases in frequency from 1 kHz to 1 MHz within 10 seconds, and then repeats:


Such a signal can be generated with a “frequency generator”, in my case this AWG.

The second part is to inject this signal into the “Device Under Test” – i.e. a 0.1 µF ceramic capacitor in our case – and let an oscilloscope “sweep” across in lock-step with that signal:


Since the frequency increases with time, we end up with a display of the frequency on the X axis versus the signal amplitude on the Y axis:


The scope was set to display in peak-detection mode, to make the display “fill” with a band of the oscillating signal. The second signal is used to trigger each scan, which takes 10 seconds to complete (plus one second on each side for the previous and next sweeps).

As you can see, the amplitude of what gets through the cap decreases. Decreases? – yes, well, I simplified things a bit. There’s a resistor in series and the setup is actually measuring the voltage over the cap. As its impedance decreases, it shorts out the signal more and more. I’m deliberately skimming over some details to keep things short for this weblog post.

Looks like all is peachy, right? Not so fast…

First, let’s change the way things get measured a bit. Instead of linearly increasing the frequency from 1 kHz to 1 MHz, I’m going to switch to a logarithmic scale. This means that every 3.33 seconds, the frequency gets increased by a factor of ten by the AWG. So while the previous image had the frequency increase by some 100 kHz per division, now we have 33.3 KHz in the middle of the screen instead of 500 KHz:


It’s exactly the same result, but it doesn’t emphasise the higher frequencies as much. Note that we’re not really interested in the exact values, more in the shape of these curves – so I’ll omit the on-screen info from now on.

So why is that frequency response flattening out in such a clear way? Stay tuned…

Update – All arrangements have been made: JeeDay will be held in Houten, with excellent train access, on Friday evening April 19th and Saturday all-day April 20th.