Agilent 7 Practices to Prevent Damaging Power Meters and Sensors

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Introduction
By their nature, instruments such as power meters and power sensors are used in applications where they are exposed to high RF power measurements. If handled correctly these instruments are very reliable and rugged. However, manufacturers receive a significant number of damaged power sensors every year. Based on an assessment of those repairs, this article highlights practices that will protect and prolong the life span power meters and power sensors.


Practice 1: Avoid Overpowering
Figure 1 shows the basic method of measuring highfrequency power using a power meter and power sensor. The power sensor converts high-frequency power to a DC or low-frequency signal that the power meter can measure and relate to an RF power level. The meter displays the detected signal as a power value in dBm or watts.


The maximum measurable power for a power sensor can vary from low power, –60 dBm, to high power, +40 dBm. To provide a safety margin, the maximum power rating is slightly higher. Even with the safety margin allowance, over half of the failed sensors received at the Agilent Service Center are caused by overpowering. Inspections typically reveal a destroyed component in the bulkhead thin-film circuit...



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