The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

CMOS Radio Frequency Circuits for Short-Range Direct-Conversion Receivers

Jouni Kaukovuori

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented with due permission of the Faculty of Electronics, Communications and Automation for public examination and debate in Auditorium S4 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 9th of May, 2008, at 12 noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 978-951-22-9265-3)   [5818 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-951-22-9264-6)


The research described in this thesis is focused on the design and implementation of radio frequency (RF) circuits for direct-conversion receivers. The main interest is in RF front-end circuits, which contain low-noise amplifiers, downconversion mixers, and quadrature local oscillator signal generation circuits. Three RF front-end circuits were fabricated in a short-channel CMOS process and experimental results are presented.

A low-noise amplifier (LNA) is typically the first amplifying block in the receiver. A large number of LNAs have been reported in the literature. In this thesis, wideband LNA structures are of particular interest. The most common and relevant LNA topologies are analyzed in detail in the frequency domain and theoretical limitations are found. New LNA structures are presented and a comparison to the ones found in the literature is made. In this work, LNAs are implemented with downconversion mixers as RF front-ends. The designed mixers are based on the commonly used Gilbert cell. Different mixer implementation alternatives are presented and the design of the interface between the LNA and the downconversion mixer is discussed.

In this work, the quadrature local oscillator signal is generated either by using frequency dividers or polyphase filters (PPF). Different possibilities for implementing frequency dividers are briefly described. Polyphase filters were already introduced by the 1970s and integrated circuit (IC) realizations to generate quadrature signals have been published since the mid-1990s. Although several publications where the performance of the PPFs has been studied either by theoretical calculations or simulations can be found in the literature, none of them covers all the relevant design parameters. In this thesis, the theory behind the PPFs is developed such that all the relevant design parameters needed in the practical circuit design have been calculated and presented with closed-form equations whenever possible. Although the main focus was on two- and three-stage PPFs, which are the most common ones encountered in practical ICs, the presented calculation methods can be extended to analyze the performance of multistage PPFs as well.

The main application targets of the circuits presented in this thesis are the short-range wireless sensor system and ultrawideband (UWB). Sensors are capable of monitoring temperature, pressure, humidity, or acceleration, for example. The amount of transferred data is typically small and therefore a modest bit rate, less than 1 Mbps, is adequate. The sensor system applied in this thesis operates at 2.4-GHz ISM band (Industrial, Scientific, and Medical). Since the sensors must be able to operate independently for several years, extremely low power consumption is required. In sensor radios, the receiver current consumption is dominated by the blocks and elements operating at the RF. Therefore, the target was to develop circuits that can offer satisfactory performance with a current consumption level that is small compared to other receivers targeted for common cellular systems.

On the other hand, there is a growing need for applications that can offer an extremely high data rate. UWB is one example of such a system. At the moment, it can offer data rates of up to 480 Mbps. There is a frequency spectrum allocated for UWB systems between 3.1 and 10.6 GHz. The UWB band is further divided into several narrower band groups (BG), each occupying a bandwidth of approximately 1.6 GHz. In this work, a direct-conversion RF front-end is designed for a dual-band UWB receiver, which operates in band groups BG1 and BG3, i.e. at 3.1 – 4.8 GHz and 6.3 – 7.9 GHz frequency areas, respectively. Clearly, an extremely wide bandwidth combined with a high operational frequency poses challenges for circuit design. The operational bandwidths and the interfaces between the circuit blocks need to be optimized to cover the wanted frequency areas. In addition, the wideband functionality should be achieved without using a number of on-chip inductors in order to minimize the die area, and yet the power consumption should be kept as small as possible.

The characteristics of the two main target applications are quite different from each other with regard to power consumption, bandwidth, and operational frequency requirements. A common factor for both is their short, i.e. less than 10 meters, range. Although the circuits presented in this thesis are targeted on the two main applications mentioned above, they can be utilized in other kind of wireless communication systems as well. The performance of three experimental circuits was verified with measurements and the results are presented in this work. Two of them have been a part of a whole receiver including baseband amplifiers and filters and analog-to-digital converters. Experimental circuits were fabricated in a 0.13-µm CMOS process. In addition, this thesis includes design examples where new circuit ideas and implementation possibilities are introduced by using 0.13-µm and 65-nm CMOS processes. Furthermore, part of the theory presented in this thesis is validated with design examples in which actual IC component models are used.

Keywords: CMOS, downconversion mixers, front-end, low-noise amplifiers, polyphase filters, radio frequency, wideband

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© 2008 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26