Calibration equipment is necessary when using network analyzers to ensure that only the device under test (DUT) is being characterized and not the cables connecting the DUT to the network analyzer. Network analyzers are designed to consider the DUT as everything beyond its test ports. By performing proper calibration, the reference plane adjusts from everything beyond the test ports to just the DUT.
The most frequently used calibration methods are Thru, Reflect, Line (TRL) and Short, Open, Load, Thru (SOLT). Both methods are various combinations of impedance and transmission methods that are used to characterize the cables and connectors for calibration. The calibration process for both methods connects standards with known properties to the measurement setup in place of the DUT. The network analyzer accounts for the cables and connectors during calibration by comparing what it measures to the values of the standards and applies corrections.
Originally, calibration was performed with mechanical standards. This process requires operators to individually make each connection and allow the network analyzer to take a measurement. Unfortunately, this process can be very time-consuming and allows the possibility for error since a full two-port calibration requires seven mechanical connections. Electronic calibration modules electronically replicate all the different types of loads with just a single connection. Electronic calibration is much more favorable due to its quick and repeatable process.
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