In this interview Dr Tim Ashworth, Applications Manager at Zurich Instruments talks to AZoM about the latest innovations in Impedance Analyzers.
Dr Ashworth explains the key challenges in the world of impedance measurement and how innovative analyzers can help solve these challenges.
Please tell us about Zurich Instruments and the work you do?
We strive for innovation leadership by integrating an ever-increasing amount of functionality into our class-leading hardware, while keeping it easy to use.
As a result, our customers benefit from efficient work flows and reduced setup complexity helping them to save time and focus on their ultimate goals.
Zurich Instruments is a young dynamic company, always innovating and improving. My role is applications manager for our impedance products, and the release of the MFIA last year has been both challenging and rewarding.
What are the key challenges in the world of impedance measurement?
Measuring impedance as a function of frequency is a well-known method of characterising dielectrics, components and many other types of materials.
However, there has been little innovation to date in impedance analyzers, so many instruments are limited in number of points they can measure, or by a lower frequency limit which misses the interesting frequency ranges.
Moreover, the impedance may change by many orders of magnitude as the frequency is swept, so you need an instrument capable of handling a wide range of impedances to get great data.
Further challenges arise when connecting the instrument to the sample; typically, you need to use a dedicated cable or fixture to make the connection. This fixture can introduce parasitics which reduce the accuracy of the impedance data.
How can innovations in impedance analyzers help solve these challenges?
The new MFIA impedance analyzer from Zurich Instruments takes an innovative approach to impedance analysis. It directly measures the voltage across and current through the device under test, eliminating the need for the feedback loop common in many instruments.
This enables lower measurement frequencies right down to millihertz and below.
The hardware of the MFIA also delivers unsurpassed accuracy for measurements over a large impedance range. However, the real magic lies in the software.
Among the many easy-to-use software tools, the parametric sweeper allows the user to sweep parameters such as frequency and measure impedance parameters as a function thereof.
This means seamless data from 1 mHz to 5 MHz with no limit on the data-point density. The data is displayed in real time, and the resulting multi-trace graph can be adjusted in a matter of seconds and then exported in vector graphics ready for publication.
What sets the new MFIA apart from other impedance analyzers? How does it compare to other models on the market?
The MFIA features an industry-leading software interface with many easy-to-use tools to speed up the process of getting data from the bench-top to the final publication.
To ensure that the data is reliable and accurate, the MFIA includes a unique “confidence -indicator” which flags up any data point which is based on unreliable fundamentals.
This delivers data that’s not just reliable, but also accurate thanks to the unbeaten basic accuracy of 0.05%. Furthermore, our comprehensive accuracy chart shows clearly the accuracy for a given parameter set.
What are the benefits of integrating the MFIA with the MFLI lock-in amplifier?
A unique feature of the MFIA is that it also includes the full functionality of our MFLI lock-in amplifier, all in the same box! This gives users the power to measure small signals that would otherwise require an additional standalone instrument.
The MFLI was launched in 2015, and has already become the new standard in the world of lock-in amplifiers.
For users new to the world of impedance measurements, how can Zurich Instruments help?
In addition to the confidence-indicators, which ensure trust in measured values for both new and seasoned users, we also include a compensation-advisor. This guides the user through the process of compensating the fixtures which connect the sample to the instrument.
This takes the uncertainty when using those all-important fixtures.
Which application areas do you see most interest from?
The MFIA is a powerful tool in any application field where low to mid frequency impedance needs to be accurately measured, and also where high impedances need to be measured.
We see a lot of interest from researchers in dielectrics (polymers and ceramic), component characterisation (supercapacitors and high-Q capacitors) and bio-impedance.
What level of support can users expect with the MFIA?
Every instrument comes with Premium Customer Care and we have a team of PhD level scientists and R&D engineers with a wealth of practical lab experience to help with impedance challenges.
As an example, we recently published blogs on measuring the equivalent series resistance (ESR) of a supercapacitor, and measuring the Q of high-Q capacitors of 100 pF.
What does this mean for the future of impedance measurement?
The MFIA brings innovation to a key research area long neglected by instrument builders, and allows users to take accurate data with confidence.
Where can our readers go to find out more?
Check out our website, which has some excellent application notes and blogs outlining recent results on challenging samples: www.zhinst.com
Alternatively, drop me an email, or call me. I’m always happy to hear about your new impedance challenges!
About Tim Ashworth
Dr Tim Ashworth obtained his PhD degree at the University of Manchester, UK in the field of nanoscale surface science, focusing on UHV SPM. Tim subsequently worked as a post-doc at the University of Basel, using lock-in technology and PLLs to get the best possible results from their home-built SPM.
Tim built up over eight years’ experience of worldwide applications support and scientific business development, before joining Zurich Instruments in 2016.
In addition to strengthening the SPM knowledge at Zurich Instruments, Tim is an applications manager for impedance products.
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