Digital Modulation

The first part of this tutorial is applicable to all HDAWG Instruments. However, Multi-frequency Modulation requires the HDAWG-MF option.

Goals and Requirements

The goal of this tutorial is to demonstrate the use of the digital modulation feature of the AWG. We demonstrate amplitude modulation and multi-frequency modulation. In order to visualize the generated multi-channel signals, an oscilloscope with sufficient bandwidth and at least 3 channels is required.

Preparation

Connect the cables as illustrated below. Make sure that the instrument is powered on and connected by Ethernet to your local area network (LAN) where the host computer resides. After starting LabOne, the default web browser opens with the LabOne graphical user interface.

fig tutorial modulation setup
Figure 1. Connections for the arbitrary waveform generator digital modulation tutorial

The tutorial can be started with the default instrument configuration (e.g. after a power cycle) and the default user interface settings (e.g. as is after pressing F5 in the browser).

Generating an I/Q Baseband Signal

In digital modulation mode, the output of the AWG is multiplied with the amplitude of one or more of the internal sine generator signals of the instrument. There are numerous advantages to using modulation mode in comparison to simply generating the sinusoidal signal directly using the AWG, such as the ability to change the frequency without uploading a new waveform, extremely high frequency resolution independent of AWG waveform length, phase-coherent generation of signals (because the oscillator keeps running even when the AWG is off), the ability to analyze an input signal at the exact frequency of the generated signal using demodulators, Boxcar and PWA, and more. The goal of this section is to demonstrate how to use the modulation mode.

We monitor the AWG signal using two channels of an external scope and use the third scope channel for triggering purposes. The following tables summarize the settings to enable the HDAWG Wave outputs and to configure the external scope.

Table 1. Settings: enable the output
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

Output

Wave Outputs

1

Enable

ON

Output

Wave Outputs

2

Enable

ON

Output

Sine Generators

1&2

Wave 1 Enable

OFF

Output

Sine Generators

1&2

Wave 2 Enable

OFF

Table 2. Settings: Configure the external scope
Scope Setting Value / State

Ch1-3 enable

ON

Ch1-3 range

0.2 V/div

Timebase

500 ns/div

Trigger source

Ch3

Trigger level

100 mV

Run / Stop

ON

We design this example around a common use case, which is the generation of dual-channel quadrature (I/Q) modulation signals to feed into a microwave mixer. Such signals require independent control of two envelope waveforms multiplied by a carrier that is shifted by 90° between the two channels. The program below generates two independent waveforms and plays them repeatedly on both channels. For dual-channel playback we can use the same playWave function that we used up to now, and simply pass to it two waveforms as arguments. We include the previously used trigger instructions for the scope, and include a wait instruction whose argument is in units of the sequencer clock period of about 3.33 ns.

wave w_gauss = gauss(8000, 4000, 1000);
wave w_drag  = drag(8000, 4000, 1000);

while (true) {
  setTrigger(1);
  playWave(w_gauss, w_drag);
  waitWave();
  setTrigger(0);
  wait(100);
}

By setting the Modulation control of AWG channel 1, we can select either sine generator 1 or 2 for the carrier generation. The sine generators are represented in the Output tab to the left of the Waveform Generators section. A sine generator is a direct digital synthesis (DDS) unit that converts a digital oscillator signal (essentially just an incrementing phase) to a sinusoid with a certain phase offset and harmonic multiplier using a look-up table containing one period of the sinusoid signal. The digital oscillator in turn is a phase accumulator with a very precise frequency derived from the instrument’s main clock. The digital oscillators on the instrument are represented in the Oscillators section of the Output tab. If the HDAWG-MF Multi-frequency option is installed, we have the freedom to freely assign oscillators to sine generators using the Osc selector in the Sine Generators section. This allows us to generate multiple signals with the same frequency but different phases, or to generate several harmonics of one base frequency with well-controlled phase relations.

The following parameter settings apply to the case with installed HDAWG-MF option.

Table 3. Settings: enable the output and configure the AWG marker output and scope trigger
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

DIO

Marker Output

1

Signal

AWG Trigger 1

Output

Sine

Output

Oscillators

1

Frequency

5 MHz

Output

Sine Generators

1

Osc

1

Output

Sine Generators

2

Osc

1

Output

Sine Generators

1

Phase

Output

Sine Generators

2

Phase

90°

Output

Waveform Generators

1

Modulation

Off

Output

Waveform Generators

2

Modulation

Off

Save and play the Sequencer program with the above settings. The upper plot in Figure 2 shows the AWG signals captured by the scope. We see the expected Gaussian pulse on Wave output 1 (green) and the DRAG pulse, which corresponds to the derivative of a Gaussian function, on Wave output 2.

fig tutorial awg scopeDirect
fig tutorial awg scopeAM
Figure 2. Dual-channel signal generated by the AWG and captured by the scope. The top figure shows two envelope waveforms played without modulation, the bottom figure shows the same envelope waveforms played with enabled modulation.

While the AWG is running, you can enable modulation by setting the AWG channel 1 Modulation to Sine 11, and AWG channel 2 Modulation to Sine 22. The notation Sine NM with N, M = 1, 2,…​ signifies the following: the given AWG channel is multiplied with the signal of Sine Generator N when routed to the first Wave output of the given AWG core, and with the signal of Sine Generator M when routed to the second Wave output of the given AWG core. Here, we route the AWG signals only along the diagonal path (AWG channel 1 to Wave 1, and AWG channel 2 to Wave 2), so we make use of only 2 of the 4 signal multipliers of core 1. The resulting signal on Wave 1 is AWG1×Sine1, and the resulting signal on Wave 2 is AWG2×Sine2. Here, AWG1 denotes the signal of AWG channel 1 (the Gaussian pulse) AWG2 the signal of AWG channel 2 (the DRAG pulse), and Sine1 (Sine2) the signal of Sine Generator 1 (2).

The lower plot in Figure 2 shows the resulting signals, which are the Gaussian and DRAG pulses multiplied by a 5 MHz carrier with phase shift 0° and 90°, respectively.

Table 4. Settings: enable modulation on two Wave outputs
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

Output

Waveform Generators

1

Modulation

Sine 11

Output

Waveform Generators

2

Modulation

Sine 22

In this practical case of I/Q modulation, the two Wave outputs typically require further adjustments of the pulse amplitude, DC offset, and inter-channel phase offset in order to compensate for analog mixer imperfections. All these adjustments can now be done on the fly using the AWG Amplitude, the Wave Output Offset, and the Sine Generator Phase settings without having to make any changes to the programmed AWG waveforms.

For certain cases of I/Q modulation, it’s required to generate linear combinations of 2 modulated signal on each Wave output. To realize this, we can make use of all 4 signal multipliers of the AWG core. We can modify the sequence program such that each AWG channel is routed to both Wave outputs by passing additional arguments to the playWave instruction (see Multi-Channel Playback ):

wave w_gauss = gauss(8000, 4000, 1000);
wave w_drag = drag(8000, 4000, 1000);
while (true) {
setTrigger(1);
playWave(1, 2, w_gauss, 1, 2, w_drag);
waitWave();
setTrigger(0);
wait(100);
}

In a typical case, we want to use crossed assignments between AWG channels and Sine generators by selecting the settings in the following table. In order to prevent an overflow condition of the summed-up signals, we set the gain parameters at each signal multiplier to 0.5.

Table 5. Settings: enable crossed dual-phase modulation on two Wave outputs
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

Output

Waveform Generators

1

Modulation

Sine 12

Output

Waveform Generators

2

Modulation

Sine 21

Output

Waveform Generators

1

Output Amplitude Wave 1

0.5

Output

Waveform Generators

1

Output Amplitude Wave 2

0.5

Output

Waveform Generators

2

Output Amplitude Wave 1

0.5

Output

Waveform Generators

2

Output Amplitude Wave 2

0.5

With these settings and the above sequence program, the resulting signal on Wave 1 is equal to AWG1×Sine1 + AWG2×Sine2, and the resulting signal on Wave 2 is equal to AWG1×Sine2 + AWG2×Sine1.

Rapid Phase Changes

The HDAWG supports rapid, real-time changes of the carrier phase in modulation mode through the sequencer instructions setSinePhase and incrementSinePhase. This capability is particularly valuable when generating long patterns of pulses with varying phases, e.g. to account for AC Stark shift in qubit control sequences, or to realize phase cycling protocols.

In addition, there is the possibility to reset the starting phase of one or multiple oscillator at the beginning of a pulse sequence using the resetOscPhase instruction. Thus it can be ensured that the carrier-envelope offset, and thus the final output signal, is identical from one repetition to the next.

Due to the architecture of the HDAWG, both the Sine Generators and the Oscillators are physically located in the front-end FPGAs of the instrument (see AWG Architecture and Execution Timing). For instruments with the HDAWG-MF option, each of the 8 or 16 oscillator exists as a copy on each front-end FPGA. When changing an oscillator frequency from the graphical user interface, all copies get synchronously updated to the new configuration with the help of the back-end FPGA. This synchronization mechanism is however relatively slow and not a real-time operation. When making use of the fast oscillator control in the form of the resetOscPhase instruction, the synchronization mechanism needs to be turned off by enabling the AWG Oscillator Control mode. Each AWG core is then allowed to control and use only a subset of oscillators: Oscillators 1 through 4 on core 1, oscillators 5 through 8 on core 2, and so forth. In the following example, we will use the oscillator 1 for both Sine Generators on AWG core 1. On instruments without the HDAWG-MF option, this is the default configuration and not modifiable. Apply the settings in the following table.

Table 6. Settings: enabling AWG oscillator control for rapid phase changes
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

Output

Waveform Generators

1

Modulation

Sine 11

Output

Waveform Generators

2

Modulation

Sine 22

Output

Sine Generators

1

Osc

1

Output

Sine Generators

2

Osc

1

Output

Oscillators

AWG Oscillator Control

ON

In the following AWG sequencer program, we generate a series of 4 dual-channel square pulses that are played back-to-back. We initialize the oscillator phase by a resetOscPhase instruction. In this form without an argument, the instruction will reset the phases of all oscillators accessible by this core (here oscillators 1 through 4). Alternatively, an argument in binary representation, e.g. 0b0101, allows us to reset only a subset of these oscillators. We then set the phases of sine generators 1 and 2 to zero using the setSinePhase instruction. Subsequently, we play back the dual-channel waveform 4 times, and after each playback instruction, we increase the phase of sine generator 2 by 60 degrees. The corresponding instruction incrementSinePhase takes effect at the end of the previous waveform playback, which allows us to change the phase precisely in between waveforms. Upload the following sequence program to the AWG and run the sequence.

wave w_pulse = ones(800);

while (true) {
  // generate trigger for scope
  setTrigger(1);
  setTrigger(0);
  // initialize oscillator frequency, reset phase
  wait(100);
  resetOscPhase();
  setSinePhase(0, 0);
  setSinePhase(1, 0);
  wait(100);

  // play waveform and change sine generator phase
  playWave(w_pulse, w_pulse);

  incrementSinePhase(1, 60); // phase increment takes effect at the end
                             // of the previous waveform
  playWave(w_pulse, w_pulse);
  incrementSinePhase(1, 60); // phase increment takes effect at the end
                             // of the previous waveform
  playWave(w_pulse, w_pulse);
  incrementSinePhase(1, 60); // phase increment takes effect at the end
                             // of the previous waveform
  playWave(w_pulse, w_pulse);
  wait(10000);
}

The resulting signal shown in Figure 3 nicely shows how the relative phase of the two signal, starting out at 0, incrementally changes in steps of 60 degrees. The end of the first waveform is marked by a cursor. In the 4th waveform, the two carrier signals are offset by exactly 180 degrees.

fig tutorial awg setSinePhase
Figure 3. Amplitude-modulated dual-channel signal with rapid real-time phase increments generated by the HDAWG.

The phase increment due to the incrementSinePhase instruction takes effect at the end of the previous waveform playback. In case the instruction is placed in the sequencer code before the first playWave instruction, the phase increment will only happen after the playWave instruction.

Multi-frequency Modulation

When the HDAWG-MF Multi-frequency option is installed, the HDAWG supports modulation of multiple carriers with individual envelope signals. This technique allows us to generate signals which, using conventional sample-by-sample waveform programming, would require to store thousands of waveforms instead of just one envelope waveform. Typical use cases are phase cycling protocols in NMR spectroscopy, or frequency-multiplexing techniques. The latter requires the HDAWG-MF option, whereas the former requires only the base instrument. Multi-carrier modulation is realized by four-fold interleaving of one AWG channel and individual multiplication of the four channels with one of the oscillator signals. The envelope sampling rate is therefore reduced by a factor of 4, whereas the carrier signal is still generated at the full sampling rate, therefore giving access to the full bandwidth.

With the following sequence program, we generate a series of pulses with changing carrier. The first four pulses each have a single carrier coming from one of the first four oscillators. In the fifth pulse, all carrier signals are superimposed. The interleave instruction, which we use several times, allows us to combine four waveforms into one.

const n_samples = 512;
wave w_gauss = 0.25*gauss(n_samples, n_samples/2, n_samples/10);
wave w_zeros = zeros(n_samples);

wave w_channel_1 = interleave(w_gauss, w_zeros, w_zeros, w_zeros);
wave w_channel_2 = interleave(w_zeros, w_gauss, w_zeros, w_zeros);
wave w_channel_3 = interleave(w_zeros, w_zeros, w_gauss, w_zeros);
wave w_channel_4 = interleave(w_zeros, w_zeros, w_zeros, w_gauss);
wave w_all_channels = interleave(w_gauss, w_gauss, w_gauss, w_gauss);

while (true) {
  playWave(w_channel_1);
  playWave(w_channel_2);
  playWave(w_channel_3);
  playWave(w_channel_4);
  setTrigger(1);
  setTrigger(0);
  playWave(w_all_channels);
  playZero(n_samples); //spacing between pulses
}

In the Multi-frequency modulation tab, we route the oscillator signals 1 to 4 to the AWG Output 1 Modulation sine generators 1 to 4 by changing the selectors in the Osc column. We set the frequencies of oscillators 1 to 4 in the Output tab to mutually different values. Deliberately, we offset oscillator 4 frequency by 1 Hz from a round value to 40.000001 MHz. This helps us demonstrate that the phase coherence is maintained independently by all oscillators. Finally, in the Output tab we set Modulation to Advanced.

Table 7. Settings: Configure the AWG output and oscillator signals
Tab Sub-tab Section # Label Setting / Value / State

Output

Oscillators

1

Frequency

10 MHz

Output

Oscillators

2

Frequency

20 MHz

Output

Oscillators

3

Frequency

30 MHz

Output

Oscillators

4

Frequency

40.000001 MHz

MF Mod

AWG Output 1 Modulation

1

Osc

1

MF Mod

AWG Output 1 Modulation

2

Osc

2

MF Mod

AWG Output 1 Modulation

3

Osc

3

MF Mod

AWG Output 1 Modulation

4

Osc

4

Output

Waveform Generators

1

Modulation

Advanced

Figure 4 shows the signal captured by the scope after having made all the settings and uploaded and played the sequence program above. In the first three pulses (10, 20, and 30 MHz) the phase is stable because the repetition rate is commensurate with the carrier frequencies. The fourth pulse (40.000001 MHz) and the fifth pulse (sum of all carriers) vary their shape over time, which is made visible by enabling scope persistence. As mentioned in the beginning, generating such a signal conventionally would consume a much larger amount of waveform memory.

fig tutorial awg multiFreq
Figure 4. Amplitude-modulated signal with multiple carriers generated by the AWG and captured by the scope with persistence.