Weird World of Microwaves Hack Chat

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Shahriar Shahramian  joins us for the Hack Chat on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at noon PST.

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Join Hack ChatNo matter how much you learn about electronics, there always seems to be another door to open. You think you know a thing or two once you learn about basic circuits, and then you discover RF circuits. Things start to get a little strange there, and stranger still as the wavelengths decrease and you start getting into the microwave bands. That's where you see feed lines become waveguides, PCB traces act as components, and antennas that look more like musical instruments.

Shahriar is no stranger to this land. He's been studying millimeter-wave systems for decades, and his day job is researching millimeter-wave ASICs for Nokia Bell Labs in New Jersey. In his spare time, Shahriar runs The Signal Path, a popular blog and YouTube channel where he dives tear-downs, explanations, and repairs of incredibly sophisticated and often outrageously expensive equipment.

We'll be sitting down with Shahriar this week for a peek inside his weird, wonderful world of microwaves. Join us with your questions about RF systems, microwaves in the communication industry, and perhaps even how he manages to find the gear featured on his channel.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Lutetium12/18/2019 at 21:09 0 comments

    James Finch12:34 PM
    Rainbow Photonics AG is who I am thinking of.

    David Troetschel12:35 PM
    @James Finch oh, this looks cool!

    James Finch12:35 PM
    W-Band is interesting.

    The Signal Path12:35 PM
    @David Troetschel (Power Factor (loss Tangent) @15°C: 0.0001 - 0.0004) That is pretty good. The issue is more than just the cost of the raw material. Lithography resolution, layers, etc. all have to be taken into account.

    James Finch12:36 PM
    Amazed me observing the transition where the circuits turned into optical train like systems designs.

    David Troetschel12:37 PM
    for sure; just an idea

    The Signal Path12:37 PM
    @David Troetschel I'll investigate. Thanks!

    A reminder that I'll post a transcript right after the chat, so everyone can refer back to links and such

    David Troetschel12:38 PM
    You can usually split a single sheet into about 20 but I have no idea how crazy you would have to be to try and smoosh em back together after laying traces haha

    home12:38 PM

    The Signal Path12:38 PM
    Any suggestions/requests for videos/ect.?

    Ethan Waldo12:39 PM
    @The Signal Path I've seen a lot of research in creating digital logic in optical ranges, are you aware of anything being produced in high mm range?

    The Signal Path12:39 PM
    One of the challenges with my channel is that the topics can get fairly advanced, as a result the audience size is always going to be fairly small.

    ottingerg12:39 PM
    ... I really like the sampling osciloscope project from Ted Yapo ... would be nice if you could feature this one in your videos

    BSA Secure12:39 PM
    Yes :) How to re-purpose existing devices to put your hands on microwave stuff while still using RTL-SDR / HackRFOne

    BSA Secure12:40 PM
    that is price baseline for most of folks

    James Finch12:40 PM
    @The Signal Path Maybe detailing circuit designs correlating the range of electronic design as well as optical like designs.

    The Signal Path12:40 PM
    @Ethan Waldo Ultra-high speed digital communication is not really digital, it is mixed signal. Wireline links can be made to beyond 100Gbps.

    The Signal Path12:40 PM
    @BSA Secure Ok. I will keep that in mind.

    michal77712:41 PM
    Can you make video about the cheapest chinese microwave test equipmen (spectrum analysets, VNAs)?

    James Finch12:41 PM
    @The Signal Path Might even be interesting to demonstrate making a cost effective spectrum analyzer interface into an oscilloscope. Might be a cost effective way to get more out of a scope and maybe in analog ways too first off.

    The Signal Path12:42 PM
    @michal777 It is amazing how much far the Chinese vendors have come in this regards. I will take a look again and see what I can find.

    Ethan Waldo12:42 PM
    But that almost always uses some specialized transceiver chip as opposed to nuts and bolts digital logic (i.e. NAND)

    home12:42 PM
    @michal777 - I agree there must be some good stuff out there for us cheapskates.

    The Signal Path12:42 PM
    @Ethan Waldo Yes, of course. These are not traditional logic gate circuits.

    James Finch12:42 PM
    @The Signal Path Would be sweet and totally awesome to be able to detect from the Gamma down to DC... though that's a little excessive of a goal for a smaller package design... though would be interesting to see what the present state of the smallest package can look like.

    Jacob joined  the room.12:43 PM

    BarceP12:44 PM
    thank you for the advice, i'll keep it in mind, I don't know if it is possible, but i think it would be interesting an overview or analysis of an IC or IC fabrication, i aIso loved the 24Ghz Doppler radar module, because of the nice analysis of a "simpler" circuit type.

    Ethan Waldo12:44 PM produces stuff in the 1Ghz max range, and then there's one other that is ridiculously expensive that I can't find right now.

    James Finch12:44 PM
    @The Signal Path Seems as soon as the chips come out and there is an evaluation board available... I'm guessing there are Chinese out there trying to engineer the cheapest feasible modules to put on the market...

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Lutetium12/18/2019 at 21:08 0 comments

    Hey everyone -- just waiting a few minutes for Shahriar to log on

    The Signal Path12:00 PM
    I am here!

    BSA Secure12:01 PM

    The Signal Path12:01 PM
    Do you see my messages Dan? :)

    Ken Kaiser joined  the room.12:01 PM

    Morning.Star12:01 PM
    Hey hey @The Signal Path

    David Troetschel12:01 PM
    Hey there everyone

    There we go, sorry I missed your login. So here we go on the final Hack Chat of 2019, and I'm really excited that Shahriar is joining us.

    Ethan Waldo12:02 PM
    Saving the best for last

    tdschwarz joined  the room.12:02 PM

    James Finch12:02 PM
    Second that.

    The Signal Path12:02 PM
    Thanks Dan for the invite and everyone else for being here.

    I love watching his videos on The Signal Path, and he's here today to talk about the weird world of microwave electronics.

    Colin Alston12:02 PM

    Colin Alston12:02 PM
    Hi. Huge fan of The Signal Path. Was just playing with a diy diode ring mixer this evening :)

    michal77712:03 PM

    Thanks @The Signal Path for your videos. They gave me a lot of knowledge and motivation to start with microwave electronics. I did already some experiments and surprisingly microwaves seem to me to be something actually possible to learn :D

    Here is my current project:

    Chris Gammell12:03 PM
    huge fan here, as well!

    The Signal Path12:03 PM
    Sounds exciting!

    The Signal Path12:03 PM
    A little about myself, I am the Director of mm-Wave ASIC research as Bell Labs. Most of our work is focused on the design of next generation ASICs for communication systems; that includes both wireless and optical systems. We do ASIC, packaging and antenna design up to about 200GHz. I am also an adjunct professor at Columbia University in NYC where I teach one course a year. Finally, I am the host and founder of The Signal Path! A video blog focused on advanced electrical engineering topics. I do equipment reviews, repairs, tutorials across a wide range of applications. (

    Colin Alston12:03 PM
    Wish I had the kit for mm wave but building up from VHF slowly

    BSA Secure12:05 PM
    Shahriar, Microwave equipment is expensive and covered by black magic and dragons : ) Osmocom guys revolutionized RF reception from ~`24 to 1.7/ 2.2Ghz for Sub 10 euros + antenna. My question is how we can easily reach Ka-Band ~`20Ghz frequencies : )

    Ethan Waldo12:05 PM
    i.e. no saphirre substrates

    The Signal Path12:05 PM
    @BSA Secure Well, it all depends on what you want to do at those frequencies. Simple detection is easy.

    The Signal Path12:06 PM
    What I think might happen is that we will see more and more external mixers/converters that can interface with lower frequency instruments.

    BSA Secure12:06 PM
    There are no TV-LNB's for ka band (small exceptions), there are Speed Cam radar detectors that gets to Ka-band. But, my question is how we can RX it for cheap on desk environment

    The Signal Path12:06 PM
    This will allow you to observe and generate a lot of things at much lower cost.

    James Finch12:06 PM
    Awesome!, wow that's almost into the Terahertz range... or I guess can be considered Terahertz. Amazing how there are solid state Terahertz systems now... or being a newbie to the electronics side of the systems... aware of.

    The Signal Path12:07 PM
    @BSA Secure That might be a good video topic, for me to show some cheap way of interfacing to lower-frequency instruments.

    BSA Secure12:08 PM
    For 10-20-30 euros you can buy Ka band Transmitter / Receiver (Geostationary, rural internet by ViaSat)- this transmitter is quire smart so you can control it via OOK/ASK packets : ) Simply up/down converter with Telemetry/Control Channel

    The Signal Path12:08 PM
    Solid-state electronics can go to THz. Not in Silicon currently, but in InP for sure.

    Chris Gammell12:08 PM
    I always appreciate any videos in the low(er) cost instrument sides of things

    The Signal Path12:08 PM
    @Chris Gammell I try to balance things out. My next video I am working on is a tutorial.


    Read more »

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