Power Integrity Measurements

High-speed digital circuit designs require sophisticated power supply decoupling to ensure signal integrity. High-speed serial data lines in Serializer/Deserializer (SERDES) implementations can run at gigahertz speeds and must be protected from power supply noise to ensure error-free data transport. Controlling the impedances of the power planes on a circuit board is critical for noise reduction. Too much capacitive decoupling results in an excessively low impedance and is just as bad as too little decoupling. Calculation of the appropriate decoupling networks to achieve flat impedance over frequency requires a careful measurement of power plane impedance over a wide frequency range.


This measurement is easily accomplished with a Copper Mountain Technologies Vector Network Analyzer. Specifically, the Compact S5065 or S5085 are capable of measuring from 9 kHz to 6.5 GHz and 8.5 GHz respectively. With a common mode transformer from Picotest J2102B inserted in the measurement line to mitigate the effect of cable shield resistance it is possible to measure power plane impedances in the milli-ohm range and verify impedance flatness. Decoupling networks can be changed on the bench and immediately verified. The imperfect behavior of decoupling capacitors will be readily apparent.


The Picotest J2102B transformer maintains a good 50 Ω match from 9 kHz to approximately 300 MHz and when used in the measurement with a CMT VNA it is a simple matter to design and verify the optimal power plane integrity which will allow the highest data rates possible.

Picotest.com, a leader in high resolution test and measurement equipment, has announced the availability of new software that brings the unique output impedance based non-invasive stability test capability to the Copper Mountain Technologies Compact series vector network analyzers (VNAs). The software add-on, available from Picotest for new or existing customers, allows the instrument to perform non-invasive stability margin (NISM) measurement.


NISM is a simpler alternative to a Bode plot measurement that allows the user to test circuit or filter stability even when the control loop is not accessible. It determines phase margin from an output impedance measurement via group delay. This capability, available for many other VNA instruments as well, allows the user to measure the stability of opamps, voltage references, voltage regulators, LDOs, switching amplifiers, POLs, input filters, and all types of power converters through their output impedance. “Even very high bandwidth control loops that are challenging, if not impossible, to measure via Bode plots, can be assessed,” stated Steven Sandler, Picotest CEO.


Copper Mountain Technologies’ VNAs compatible with Picotest :


S5045 2-Port 4.5 GHz Analyzer

9 kHz – 4.5 GHz


S5065 2-Port 6.5 GHz Analyzer

9 kHz – 6.5 GHz


S5085 2-Port 8.5 GHz Analyzer

9 kHz – 8.5 GHz

Picotest Instruments