BOSTON During a press conference at the IEEE's MTT-S International Microwave Symposium, Darlene J.S. Solomon, Agilent Technologies CTO and vice president and director of Agilent Laboratories, presented an overview of the challenges and opportunities facing her company and the industry. She highlighted three trends that can help engineers clear data acquisition and measurement hurdles:
* Driving active devices into their nonlinear modes and assessing their performance there, so designers can achieve additional efficiency and precision. Solomon said Agilent has invested heavily in instrumentation for what it calls X-parameters, a superset of well-established S-parameters.
* LAN-enabled time synchronization of measurements across multiple instruments of a test system, coordinating joint action when two or more units must work together for complex data collection. The LAN Extensions for Instrumentation (LXI) standard is key here, enabled by IEEE 1588.
* New approaches to data visualization and analysis, so users can cope with and make sense of the increasingly large, complex data sets they acquire. Solomon noted that the volume of data measurement by high-frequency real-time scopes has grown by seven orders of magnitude since the 1980s. Graphics processing and presentation, using techniques derived from gaming, may be the answer here.
Solomon said the four traditionally disparate worlds of discrete measurementsphysical, chemical, electrical and biologicalare converging on the nanotechnology front as the scale and specific parameters of required measurements shift. She pointed to the scanning microwave microscope for multimodal measurement, which takes an atomic-force microscope (AFM) the size of a common high-school optical microscope and fitted with a special probe tip and cone assembly, and links it to a standard microwave network analyzer. The combined setup is capable of providing multifrequency, absolute-capacitance measurements at micrometer dimensions, revealing surface and subsurface dimensions, materials, impurities and material flow, and thereby giving insights unattainable with existing instrumentation.
Asked if and when she sees the end of Moore's Law, Solomon said economic imperatives will bring it to an end before physics forces the issue. But nanotech and biologically based components may be waiting to take over.