Keysight’s New SMU Promises to Accelerate Semiconductor Characterization

July 17, 2023 by Aaron Carman

Digital designers can substitute complex multichannel test setups for a single-package, high-density test solution.

Keysight Technologies recently introduced the PZ2100 series of source measure units (SMUs) to aid in the digital development and characterization process. SMUs play an important role in the semiconductor industry, and the ability to incorporate multi-functional devices in a smaller form factor is a major benefit to designers.


The PZ2100 series of SMUs

The PZ2100 series of SMUs offers designers a high number of test channels in a small footprint, simplifying the test process and allowing for more complex digital designs. Image used courtesy of Keysight Technologies

SMUs primarily perform two tasks: they source and measure currents and voltages on the same port. While this may sound rather simple for a one-off measurement, having a dedicated instrument can aid the characterization process when multiple channels or a high number of measurements need to be taken. Keysight has also added some extra features and customization options to the PZ2100 series with the goal of making the engineer’s life easier.

This article dives into the specs behind the PZ2100 series to give readers an understanding of not only how an SMU may be used but also how the latest piece of Keysight test gear could greatly accelerate IC design times.


High-density Measurement

In the age of integration, IC designs are rapidly becoming more complex and more densely integrated. In tandem, the test and measurement process has become equally complex, increasing the demand for high-density measurement. While this is certainly possible to accomplish with existing SMUs, the inherent complexity increases the test time and the resulting time-to-market.


SMUs combine the source and measurement functionality

SMUs combine the source and measurement functionality to automate the measurement process, speeding the time-to-market and simplifying the overall testing burden. Image used courtesy of Analog Devices

Keysight’s solution to this problem is to integrate as much functionality and as many test channels as possible into a single device, mitigating the requirement for custom-made test setups for a cleaner and easier solution. This goal resulted in the PZ2100 series of SMUs, with the number of SMU channels going up to 20 with a single instrument in a 1U form factor.

The dense number of channels combined with the joint source and measurement of the PZ2100 SMUs make them a useful tool for semiconductor characterization, speeding the time-to-market for new designs and relieving some common pain points in the design cycle.


Solutions at Any Scale

The newly announced PZ2100 series (datasheet linked) consists of four SMUs, each of which reports different specs that make them helpful for different cases. The flagship model, the PZ2100A, supports up to 20 SMU channels with five module options, including pulsers or digitizers in one resource. If fewer channels are needed, a smaller form factor can be found in the PZ2130/2131-A model, with five channels and a lower cost per channel.



The PZ2110A offers designers increased resolution at the cost of channel support, adding flexibility to the product line and allowing for more customization in the testing strategy. Image used courtesy of Keysight Technologies

If even fewer channels are required, Keysight has also released the PZ2110A and PZ2120A, each of which offers higher resolution or higher speed, respectively. The PZ2110A can achieve a current resolution down to 10 fA with a maximum current of 210 V, while the PZ2120 A can support up to 15 MSa/s sampling rate, with pulse widths down to 10 µs.


Doing More with Less Space

As electronics tend toward smaller and more tightly-integrated designs, the functionality offered by Keysight’s latest test gear is certainly a welcome addition to the digital designer’s lab bench. Instead of requiring multiple pieces of equipment or a manual test strategy, more tests can be automated and performed faster, speeding up the test process considerably.


The PathWave software

The PathWave software allows more functionality to be extracted from the PZ2100 series, giving designers more flexibility when testing complex devices. Image used courtesy of Keysight Technologies

Keysight's PathWave software can be used in conjunction with the SMU to provide a computer-aided test process, further simplifying testing with an intuitive GUI and more automation features. While not all designers will need the number of channels the PZ2100 series offers, for those who do, the additional headroom may continue the momentum toward highly-integrated digital electronics.