A new network analyser for the upgraded microwave laboratory

4 Dec 2014 - 14:30

At a function held on Tuesday 2 December 2014, Prof Riana Geschke of the Radar Remote Sensing Group unveiled the brand-new Agilent 10 Mhz to 76 GHz network analyser, which arrived in August 2014.

The event was attended by staff and students of the RRSG, the Department of Electrical Engineering and the Faculty of the Engineering and the Built Environment, as well as by colleagues from industry. Special guests were Dr Romilla Maharaj, the Executive Director in the Department of Human and Infrastructure Capacity Development at the NRF and Prof Francis Petersen, the previous Dean of the EBE Faculty and, since the start of October 2014, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Institutional Innovation.

In her speech, Prof Geschke thanked the National Research Foundation, the Department of Science and Technology, UCT’s Equipment Committee, the EBE Faculty and the various role players for making it possible for the Department to buy this


Prof Geschke explained the reasons for the recent upgrades to the Millimetre and Microwave Laboratory.

“The Microwave Laboratory has always been a part of the operations of the Radar Remote Sensing Group. When I arrived at UCT, my assignment was to complement the radar group’s activities by extending the  microwave and RF aspects of the work done in the group.

My expertise in  measurements, component design and applied computational electromagnetics fills a gap in the group, that is otherwise particularly strong on signal processing, parallel computing and systems modelling of radar systems.”

The need for a new network analyser

“The obvious place to start was to look at the capabilities of the lab equipment we had. It was clear that the current equipment did not cover even the frequency range of existing projects, and an upgrade was necessary.

Also, given my interest in hardware design at frequencies beyond the microwave range, we decided to look for funding for a new network analyser. This is a sophisticated instrument that is able to characterize devices and entire systems up to 67 GHz.”

The lengthy application process

Prof Daniel O’Hagan, Prof Riana Geschke, Dr Romilla Maharaj, Prof Francis Petersen, and Prof Barry Downing

“I first applied to the UEC [University Equipment Committee] in February 2013, and then received permission from the UCT Research office to apply to the NRF National Equipment Programme for funding. This was a long process and the application was submitted towards the end of 2013. The UCT Research Office has been very supportive and they (actually this was Renee le Roux’s hard work) read the application and gave very detailed comments on how to improve the funding application.

On 10 January 2014, I received a letter from the NRF that an amount of R2.16 million was awarded!

By that time the price of the network analyser had increased due to exchange rate changes. The UEC grant was about R760k and the remaining parts (R318k and R386k) were found from a Faculty Equipment Committee Departmental grant and the Dean’s office contribution!”

Upgrades to the Microwave Lab

Since the arrival of the new network analyser, some changes have been made to the Microwave Laboratory in order to upgrade the facilities, improve the security measures and increase access control. New laboratory operating procedures are being implemented, and senior postgraduate students will be trained to assist with supervising users of this highly sensitive instrument.

Prof Geschke added, “The instrument we have is upgradable with various extensions for additional measurements. Our model for this is that we are inviting industry to participate and to co-­fund any upgrades as required by joint projects.”

highly sensitive and much-needed instrument.

Upgrades to the Microwave Lab