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Design of Directional Coupler in Bulk-CMOS Switch

Bogdan Tanc1,2, Valentyn Solomko1, Daniel Kehrer1, Ivan Bogdanov2

Infineon Technologies, RF and Protection Devices, Neubiberg, 85579, Germany

Politehnica University of Timisoara, 300006, Timisoara, Romania

Abstract The design of a directional coupler is

presented. The goal is to achieve performance required
for RF front-ends of mobile handheld applications using
monolithic integration approach. The technology used
for designing such a coupler is C11NP, which focuses on
RF switch applications. The coupler is initially
approximated based on an ideal model of a short
directional coupler and later on finely tuned using
electro-magnetic (EM) simulation. Designed directional
coupler achieves worst-case insertion loss of 0.26 dB at
frequencies between 0.5 GHz and 3.8 GHz, directivity of
25 dB within and mention frequency range and coupling
factor of 25 dB at the middle of the frequency range.
Keywords: Directional coupler, coupling factor,
directivity, transmission lines, transformer, winding.

The goal of this paper is to describe the design

of directional coupler, by achieving reasonable
performances through C11NP technology.
Directional couplers are RF passive device which
couple part of the transmitted power by a specific
proportion out through another port, using two
transmission lines which are located close enough to
each other, such that the energy passing through one is
coupled to the other[2]. A directional coupler has
typically four ports: input port, transmitted port,
coupled port and isolated port, as shown in Figure 2.

The largest market in terms of volumes in
consumer electronics is the smartphones market. Due
to ever-increasing demand on performance of
smartphones while constantly pushing down the cost
of a mobile handset there is a need for highly reliable
and low-cost components with small form-factor. This
also applies for radio-frequency (RF) front-ends.
Directional coupler is a part of RF front-end of a
mobile phone. Its role is to couple a transmitted signal
back to the system for power amplifiers control.
Additionally, the signal reflected from antenna due to
mismatches is sensed by a coupler and can be used to
implement antenna tuning functionality.

Fig. 2. Directional coupler

A directional coupler can be characterized by the

following set of parameters:

Coupling Factor. The amount of incident

power that is delivered to the coupled port.
It is defined as the ratio between the power
at the coupled port to the power at the input

Coupling factor ( dB )=C=20 log S 31(1)

Fig. 1. Block diagram of an RF Front End

The block diagram in Figure 1 represents a RF

front-end which consists of a Power Amplifier (PA),
an Antenna Tuner and a Directional Coupler.

Isolation. Represents the amount of incident

power parasitically coupled into the isolated
port. Ideally this value should be zero, but
due of imperfect isolation a small amount of
power leaks to the isolated port.

Isolation ( dB )=I =20 log S 41(2)

Directivity. It represents the directional

couplers ability to isolate forward and
reverse waves. This indicates the accuracy
of the measured power levels in a specific

Directivity ( dB ) =D=I C=20 log S34 (3)

lumped-element values are calculated using (9) and


Insertion loss. Indicates how much power is

lost between input and transmitted ports due
to power and/or mismatch losses. The
insertion loss of an ideal directional coupler
will consist entirely of the coupling loss.

Insertionloss ( dB ) =Lc2,1 =20 log S 21

20 log [ 1S 31 ] (4)
Due to Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and Wireless
Communications Standards, a directional coupler is
required to operate at frequencies between 0.5 GHz
and 3.8 GHz. Within this frequencies range, the
suitable performance for a coupler are insertion-loss
lower than 0.4 dB, coupling factor in the range of 25
dB and directivity greater than 25 dB.
The coupler shown in Figure 2 can be designed
with two coupled transmission lines at the center
frequency of the band through the following equations

c = e =0= /2 , Z 20=Z 0 e Z0 o (5)

C=20 log


Z o 0 =Z 0

110C /20
1+10C /20

1/ 2


To design a compact directional coupler with

tight coupling the coupler is implemented as a spiral
magnetic transformer in a planar fabrication process.
For achieving a small size of the coupler, the spiral
transformer is printed on a substrate material with
small pitch between the conductors of the transformer.
High coupling factor is achieved by letting windings
of the transformer run parallel to each other over the
whole length of the conductor. To obtain accurate
design of such structure an electromagnetic (EM)
simulation is required [1].
For having an overview of the performances of
ideal directional coupler the equations above are used
to calculate an ideal coupler and plot its
characteristics over the frequency. With the coupling
coefficient of C=17dB at a center frequency of f 0=1
GHz the highest value of directivity is obtained at f 0,
which proves the ideal nature of the coupler. In the
Figure 4, the curves for calculated ideal coupler are

Z 0 eZ 0 o
Z 0 e+ Z 0 o

1+10C/ 20
Z oe =Z 0
C/ 20

Fig. 3. Lumped-element model of a coupler


1 /2


where subscripts e and o denote even and odd mode,

C represents the coupling coefficient expressed in
decibels with positive sign and Z0 is the terminating
Also, the same coupler can be modeled as a
lumped-element equivalent circuit (EC) as shown in
Figure 3. The values for L, M, C g and Cc in terms of
Z0e, Z0o and are obtained as follows [1]:


( Z 0 e +Z 0 o ) sin

C g=


,M =

( Z 0 e Z 0 o ) sin

Fig. 4. Coupling factor and directivity over frequency


tan ( /2 )
1 tan ( /2 )
,C =

Z0e 2 f 0 c Z0o Z0e 4 f 0

where f0 is the center frequency and =90 at f 0.

Therefore if the coupling is known, using (7) and (8),
the Z0e and Z0o can be determined and then the

Furthermore, if the series resistance of the

inductance is taken into consideration (Rs=1), the
directivity of the coupler becomes finite, which is
demonstrated in the same Figure 4. Series resistance
also degrades the insertion loss of the coupler.

Fig. 5. Insertion loss over frequency

Figure 5 illustrates the insertion loss of an ideal

coupler and the effect of series resistance on it.

Fig. 7. Metal stack of C11NP technology

In Figure 7 the metal stack of the C11NP

technology is illustrated. In Table 1 the parameters for
each metal layer are presented.

Fig.6. S11 for 0.5 GHz to 3 GHz

As can be observed in Figure 6, the matching

point is obtained at f0=1GHz - at this point the
maximum power transfer is achieved. As the
frequency increases, the structure becomes capacitive.
The C11NP technology is a triple-well 130 nm
fabrication process from Infineon Technologies
targeting RF switch applications.
This fabrication process offers 6 levels of
metallization separated by Silicon dioxide (SiO 2) over



r =4.0 .


The SiO2 insulation layers

have a

permittivity of

Table 1. Metal stack



Sheet Resistivity







Through this technology, inductors can be made

with different kind of metallization, from M6 down to
Poly, but as the inductors are dependent on metal
resistivity, substrate coupling and mutual inductance,
an inductor should be made using thick M5 or M6
layers for having good performances.
The directional coupler was designed as a
transformer with two windings. Due the high
transmitted power (up to 35 dBm) the RMS current
may reach 300 mA requiring wide conductor of the
primary winding: 35 m. The secondary winding has
a width of 10m. The transformer windings were
made of M5 and M6 metallization layers. The coupler
layout is illustrated in the Figure 9.

Fig. 9. Layout of directional coupler

The coupler has been simulated with Sonnet. To

perform a fine analysis of the structure the simulation
using the Adaptive Band Synthesis (ABS) between
0.5 GHz and 6 GHz has been done. The coupling
characteristic is a first order response ranging from
30dB 20dB between 1GHz and 3GHz. The coupler
demonstrates a directivity exceeding 20 dB within the
mentioned frequency range which shows the
broadband performance of the coupler. Coupling and
isolation curves are demonstrated in Figure 10.

Fig. 11. Insertion loss variation with frequency

Because the second winding has only one turn,

the coupler achieves state-of-art performances
regarding insertion loss. The Figure 11 illustrates the
losses of the coupler.
Furthermore, little mismatch is observed at input
and transmitted ports of the coupler with is another
reason for low overall insertion loss. This is shown in
Figure 11.

Fig. 12. S11 variation in the range of 0.5 GHz 6 GHz

The directional coupler was design in C11NP
technology from Infineon Technologies. The device
layout is made of M5 and M6 metallization layers,
with a total layout size of 400X300m 2. Because of
high current densities (300 mA RMS) the width of the
primary winding is chosen to be 35 um. With a
directivity of 20dB-25dB between 1GHz and 5GHz,
the coupler could be used as a broadband coupler,
achieving very low insertion loss, 0.15dB 0.3dB,
and very reasonable coupling in the same range of

Fig. 10. Simulated coupling and isolation over frequency

[1] Inder Bahl., Lumped elements for RF and microwave circuits,
Artech House, 2003.
[2] Reema Sidhwani, Antenna tuning for WCDMA RF front end,
Maser Thesis, Aalto University, 2012