New Reflectometer and Measurement Sub-System
for the Micro908 Antenna Analyst

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REFL Prototype rev A.1
(Note: A DIP package is used here in the prototype for the uM-FPU math chip,
as the SOIC was not yet available.  An SOIC-18 package will be used for the
production version of REFL.

REFL is a new and improved reflectometer subsystem for the Micro908, providing:

  • Auto Level Control for the DDS-60 card

  • Log Amp RF Detectors

  • 12-bit A/D Converter

  • Math Co-Processor

Single card REFL replaces existing DDS card and on-board reflectometer

Easy upgrade …plugs into DDS-60 socket and user adds five wires

Provides improved accuracy, stability and advanced measurement ability


REFL-1 Schematic

REFL-1 Design Overview

The REFL Schematic  shows that we opted to keep the same basic Wheatstone bridge configuration for the measurement engine.  An Automatic Level Control (ALC) circuit enables the DDS-60 daughtercard to produce a constant level into the Bridge.  An AD8310 logarithmic amplifier is used to detect/measure each component signal Vr, Va and Vz in the Bridge.  A broadband video amplifier (LMC6484) is used to boost the log amp output signals in order to maximize the usable range of the Analog-to-Digital converter (ADC) in the next stage.  The ADC selected (AD7998) has 12-bit resolution and is controlled by the Micro908's HC908 processor via the 2-wire I2C bus and protocol. The Micro908 processor also controls a powerful math chip (Micromega uM-FPU) via the same I2C bus in order to offload specific advanced and scientific computations from the main processor, as well as to perform anti-log function on the measured data.


Automatic Level Control circuitry is used to produce a constant level reference signal for the Reflectometer.  The DDS-60 card experiences a roll off in signal level as frequency increases, as predicted by sin(x)/x sampling theory.  Further, the response of the video amplifiers on the DDS card also contribute to this signal level roll off .  The ALC circuit samples the DDS output signal, and feeds the rectified/filtered signal to an op amp comparator IC.  The other input of the comparator is fed by a trimpot whose setting establishes the reference voltage that we ultimately want the DDS output signal to be.  The comparator drives an FET transistor that acts as a variable resistor when connected to the Rset pin back on the DDS chip.  The value of Rset resistor R10 on the DDS card determines how much signal is produced by the DDS chip, thus completing the closed loop for establishing a constant DDS output level.  Ideally, the DDS output level will be set to about 2V pp going into the Wheatstone Bridge.

Wheatstone Bridge

We decided to stay with the original basic measurement engine of the Wheatstone bridge.  It is computationally straightforward, we can use a great deal of the current computation algorithms, and the technique does not infringe on various other methods in current literature. We felt that if we could eliminate the detrimental effects incurred in the RF signal detection process for Va, Vz and Vr measurement components, we would see significant improvement in measurement accuracy, precision and stability.

Log Amps

We selected use of the AD8310 logarithmic amplifier because of its inherent input detection ability, thus allowing us to eliminate the discrete RF detection components that we felt were frequency sensitive. It offers a wide dynamic range of 80 dB (100uV-1V rms), although we only will need about 40 dB. A challenge introduced by using the AD8310 is the logarithmic output voltage it produces, versus the need for linear representation of the sampled signal.  This aspect is addressed in a subsequent section, below.

Video Amps

The LMC6484 amplifiers are the same as used in the original design.  Resistors were selected to initially provide a voltage gain of 2 in order to boot the 0.5V-2V DC output of the log amps to the 5V max range of the ADC.


The AD7998 analog-to-digital converter is an 8-channel, 12-bit ADC.  We use a 4.9V Zener diode to establish a near-5V usable range for the conversion process.   The ADC is controlled by an I2C two-wire bus used by the Micro908 processor to start conversions and retrieve the 12-bit data (in the form of two 8-bit bytes) from the three successive approximation converters used in the device.

Math Coprocessor

The Micromega uM-FPU_v3 integrated circuit is a very powerful math coprocessor that is a computational subsystem all unto itself.  The main Micro908 processor controls the math chip and transfers data to/from it via the two-wire I2C bus.  The math chip uses numerous 32-bit internal registers, RAM, Flash and EEPROM memory to perform integer or floating point computations (both common/low-level ones as well as complex scientific functions) and a lookup table.  The coprocessor in the math chip will allow separate algorithmic computations to be performed in parallel with, or instead of, the main Micro908 processor.  Performance improvements may be able to be achieved that will offset the extra transfer time for data across the I2C bus.  Experimentation and analysis is needed to verify the performance impact/benefits of this math chip subsystem.

An RS-232 level translator chip (MAX233) is also included on the REFL board in order to provide connection of a dumb terminal for debug purposes with the math subsystem.  This will be an invaluable tool during the development phase.  This RS-232 debugging capability will not be provided on production boards – the MAX233 chip will merely be omitted.

PC Board Layout

Special care was taken to orient the Bridge and measurement components very close to the edge of the REFL board and right up against the RF output jack of the instrument.  The two pads carrying the output signal may be soldered directly to the back of the BNC connector, thus offering the most ideal short-length connection to the instrument output.  (Aside: Probably need to determine a better connection method to the BNC that will allow plug-removal of the REFL board.)

Understanding the electrically-sensitive nature of the measurement subsystem, special consideration was also given to the ground plane layout.  A single ground “feed point” is located near the center of the REFL board, which connects to four separate ground plane areas: (1) DDS and ALC; (2) Bridge, Log Amps, Video Amps; (3) ADC; and (4) math.

Power Supplies

Two TO92-packaged 3-terminal regulators provide 5V power for the REFL components.  One voltage regulator powers the ALC, log amps and video amp circuits.  The other voltage regulator powers the ADC and math subsystem.  The overall current draw of the REFL card with the DDS-60 plugged in is approximately 270 ma.

Adding REFL-1 to the Micro908

  1. Cut the signal and ground traces at the base of the BNC connector.  [Insert photo.]

  2. Insert the REFL board in place of the DDS card, directly in the 8-pin socket provided for the DDS card on the Micro908 motherboard. 

  3. Insert the DDS card in the new 8-pin on-board socket.  (Prototype boards will have the DDS card oriented perpendicular to the REFL card, while production boards will have the DDS card oriented parallel to the main board in order to meet the vertical clearance requirements with the completely enclosed Micro908.)

  4. Solder the two pads at the far-right end of the REFL board directly to the back of the BNC connector.

  5. Solder two I2C control wires wires from the HC908 sockets on the Micro908 motherboard, at J1p_ and J1p_.  Attach these two wires to the supplied 2-pin pinheader socket and plug into the REFL card at P5.

  6. Load the appropriate new AA908 software that supports the REFL board.

  7. Calibrate using the new technique, and run.


REFL-1 Test Code

    Binary (.s19)
    Source (.zip)



[To be provided]


In case of Troubles

[To be provided.]


Parts List

[To be provided.]


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Page last updated:  Nov 2, 2007