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High-Precision Measurement of Sine and Pulse Reference Signals Using Software-Defined Radio

: Andrich, C.; Ihlow, A.; Bauer, J.; Beuster, N.; Del Galdo, G.


IEEE transactions on instrumentation and measurement 67 (2018), No.5, pp.1132-1141
ISSN: 0018-9456
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IIS ()

This paper addresses simultaneous high-precision measurement and analysis of generic reference signals by using inexpensive commercial off-the-shelf software-defined radio hardware. Sine reference signals are digitally downconverted to baseband for the analysis of phase deviations. Hereby, we compare the precision of the fixed-point hardware digital signal processing chain with a custom single instruction multiple data x86 floating-point implementation. Pulse reference signals are analyzed by a software trigger that precisely locates the time where the slope passes a certain threshold. The measurement system is implemented and verified using the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) N210 by Ettus Research LLC. Applying standard 10 MHz and 1 PPS reference signals for testing, a measurement precision (standard deviation) of 0.36 and 16.6 ps is obtained, respectively. In connection with standard PC hardware, the system allows long-term acquisition and storage of measurement data over several weeks. A comparison is given to the dual-mixer time difference and time interval counter, which are state-of-the-art measurement methods for sine and pulse signal analysis, respectively. Furthermore, we show that our proposed USRP-based approach outperforms measurements with a high-grade digital sampling oscilloscope.