## Quality of termination used for calibration

Some of us use a resistor as a load for testing a transmitter or other RF source. In this application they are often rated for quite high power and commonly called a dummy load. In that role, they usually do not need to be of highly accurate impedance, and commercial dummy loads will often be specified to have maximum VSWR in the range 1.1 to 1.5 (Return Loss (RL) from 26 to 14dB) over a specified frequency range.

We also use a known value resistor for measurement purposes, and often relatively low power rating but higher impedance accuracy. They are commonly caused terminations, and will often be specified to have maximum VSWR in the range 1.01 to 1.1 (RL from 46 to 26dB) over a specified frequency range.

## Return Loss

It is more logical to discuss this subject in terms of Return Loss rather than VSWR.

Return Loss is defined as the ratio of incident to reflected power at a reference plane of a network. It is expressed in dB as 20*log(Vfwd/Vref).

## Calibration of directional couplers

Calibration of directional couplers often uses a termination of known value, and the accuracy of the termination naturally rolls into the accuracy of the calibration and the measurement results.

A simple example is that of a Return Loss Bridge (RLB) where a known reference termination is compared to an open circuit and then an unknown load to find the Return Loss (being the difference between them).

Let use look at three examples of RF load resistors at hand and consider their performance as a calibration reference. The discussion uses datasheet VSWR or RL figures which are the best one can rely upon unless high accuracy measurements of made of the device.

### MFJ-264N

The MFJ-264N is a high power ‘dummy load’ with max VSWR specified as 1.3 to 650MHz, which is equivalent to RL>17.6dB. In a very good RLB, the directivity will approach the reference termination’s RL, so we can regard the RLB directivity in this case to be 18dB in round numbers.

We can calculate the uncertainty in measuring a given VSWR given the minimum directivity of the RLB.

Let’s say we wanted to measure VSWR down to 1.5, and we wish to know the uncertainty (error bounds).

Above is a calculation of the scenario. It can be seen that with a true VSWR=1.5 load, the RLB may indicate anywhere between VSWR 1.16 and 1.97.

### Bird 6150

The Bird 6150 is a high power ‘dummy load’ with max VSWR specified as 1.1 from 30 to 500MHz, which is equivalent to RL>26.4dB. In a very good RLB, the directivity will approach the reference termination’s RL, so we can regard the RLB directivity in this case to be 26dB in round numbers.

We can calculate the uncertainty in measuring a given VSWR given the minimum directivity of the RLB.

Let’s say we wanted to measure VSWR down to 1.5, and we wish to know the uncertainty (error bounds).

Above is a calculation of the scenario. It can be seen that with a true VSWR=1.5 load, the RLB may indicate anywhere between VSWR 1.35 and 1.67.

Definitely better than the MFJ-264N.

### KARN-50-18+

The KARN-50-18+ is a low power ‘termination’ with RL specified on the chart above. In a very good RLB, the directivity will approach the reference termination’s RL, so we can regard the RLB directivity in this case to be >46dB in round numbers up to 1000MHz.

We can calculate the uncertainty in measuring a given VSWR given the minimum directivity of the RLB.

Let’s say we wanted to measure VSWR down to 1.5, and we wish to know the uncertainty (error bounds).

Above is a calculation of the scenario. It can be seen that with a true VSWR=1.5 load, the RLB may indicate anywhere between VSWR 1.48 and 1.52.

Much better than either of the previous examples, but it is only rated for 2W so it unsuitable as a load for a high power device.

## The high power challenge

High power RF resistors tend to have poor RL, yet a high RL high power resistor is needed for checking or calibrating high power directional wattmeters.

A possible solution is to use a good RLB with good reference termination to ‘calibrate’ a high power load via an ATU, and use the latter for high power measurements. This typically is a single frequency technique, and there is unavoidable uncertainty introduce in this calibration process.

Another technique is to use an ATU + high power load on the directional coupler, adjusting the ATU for null reflection indication. Then move the cable from the directional coupler to a VNA or analyser and measure the impedance seen by the DUT. Again, being an indirect method, uncertainty flows from cascading measurements.

## Conclusion

Resistor loads of lower RL lead to high uncertainty of measurements using them as a reference (directly or indirectly).

The uncertainty is worse as measured RL of the unknown approaches the RL of the reference used.

Depending on the accuracy needed of measurements, RL of the reference typically needs to be 10dB or more better than the intended measurement.

Watch the blog for continuing postings in the series Exploiting your antenna analyser. See also Exploiting your antenna analyser – contents.