Characterizing Mixer Performance using Vector Network Analyzers

Mixers are 3-port devices that incorporate nonlinear elements, typically diodes or transistors, to produce the sum or difference of two input frequencies. For example, in transceivers mixers are used to translate radio frequencies (RF) to intermediate frequencies (IF) to allow easier, cheaper, and more accurate processing as well as to translate intermediate frequencies to RF for communication, especially over antennas which are more efficient and smaller at higher frequencies.

Engineers developing mixers or integrating mixers in systems often need to measure mixer performance, including conversion loss, phase and group delay, the 1 dB compression point, isolation between ports, and port VSWR. Measurements characterizing these parameters are easily performed on Vector Network Analyzers (VNAs) with advanced calibration techniques, including Scalar Mixer Calibration (SMC) and Vector Mixer Calibration (VMC).

This app note will give a brief overview of mixer fundamentals, describe important mixer characteristics, and detail various measurement processes.