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60-GHz AMC-Based Circularly Polarized On-Chip

Antenna Using Standard 0.18- m CMOS Technology
Xiao-Yue Bao, Yong-Xin Guo, Senior Member, IEEE, and Yong-Zhong Xiong, Senior Member, IEEE

AbstractA 60-GHz artificial magnetic conductor (AMC)-based

circularly polarized (CP) on-chip antenna has been designed and
fabricated using standard 0.18- m six metal-layer CMOS technology. The design consists of a wideband circularly polarized
loop antenna at the top layer M6 and a novel AMC structure
at the bottom layer M1. The size of the antenna including the
modified AMC structure is 1.8 1.8 0.3 mm . The circular
open-loop structure is employed for antenna design because
the gap within the loop can excite traveling wave current and
then achieve circular polarized radiation. In addition, it is found
that the bandwidth of circular polarization can be significantly
increased by introducing one more inner parasitic loop. With
the modified AMC structure integrated into the bottom layer,
the antenna performance can be optimized and improved as
more design freedom is introduced. The proposed antenna can
offer a simulated peak gain of 3.7 dBi and a measured gain of
4.4 dBi, respectively, as well as simulated and measured axial
bandwidth to cover from 57 to 67 GHz.
Index Terms0.18- m CMOS technology, 60-GHz radio, artificial magnetic conductor (AMC), circular polarization, on-chip antenna.


ECENTLY, there exists an increasing interest in the

60-GHz unlicensed frequency band because it can provide ever-increasing capacity of wireless networks, especially
in the wireless personal area network (WPAN) [1]. For this
communication, multi-gbps wireless connectivity for short
distances between electronic devices can be realized. The data
rate is expected to be 40100 times faster than current WLAN
Complementary metaloxide semiconductor (CMOS) has
become a viable technology for these applications as its
high-frequency capability has been improved through scaling
[2]. In addition, CMOS technology promises to integrate a complete 60-GHz system (radio front-end plus digital processor)
on a single chip further to enhance systems competitiveness.

Manuscript received May 19, 2011; revised October 01, 2011; accepted October 10, 2011. Date of publication March 01, 2012; date of current version May
01, 2012. This work was supported in part by the National University of Singapore Young Investigator Award, and in part by the IMENUS Joint Research
Project under the Grant 09-410001.
X. Y. Bao and Y. X. Guo are with the Department of Electrical and Computer
Engineering, National University of Singapore, Singapore 117576, Singapore
Y. Z. Xiong is with the Institute of Microelectronics, Singapore 117685, Singapore.
Color versions of one or more of the figures in this paper are available online
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TAP.2012.2189725

In the related research, an antenna plays a key role in the

integrated CMOS system, which has independent properties
that affect the system as a whole [3]. During recent research,
several CMOS on-chip antennas have been studied and fabricated to meet the demand of 60-GHz radio on-chip front-end
circuit systems [4][7]. While most antennas perform poor
radiation efficiency because of the low resistivity and high
permittivity of lossy silicon substrate used for CMOS technology, the removal of all connections between RF circuits and
the antenna offers substantial cost reduction and flexibility in
circuit design for low-cost consumer electronics, especially at
millimeter-wave frequencies. The detailed properties of these
antennas are shown in Table II in Section IV. Though, the
micromachining technique and proton implantation have been
proposed to reduce silicon substrate loss and therefore improve
antenna radiation efficiency, these solutions reduce the level of
system integration and increase the fabrication cost. Typically,
the low-gain on-chip antennas could be used in chip-to-chip
wireless communications to replace the metal interconnects
between chips [8], low-cost consumer handheld devices for
near distance communications with high data rate transmission
(distance less than 1 m), such as cell phones and cameras
downloading video and music files from public kiosks [9], etc.
The on-chip antennas using the standard CMOS process
would facilitate the easy integration with other active circuits.
The artificial magnetic conductor (AMC) structure has been
an active area of research as they can replace perfect electric
conductor (PEC) planes for low-profile antennas and enhancing
antenna performance [10][14]. Take a common electric wire
antenna near a PEC plane for an example, its image current
reverses with the original one, which reduces the radiation efficiency, but for an AMC plane, on the other hand, the radiation
of this electric wire antenna can be strengthened because its
image current is the same direction with the original current
[15]. In order to improve antenna performance, we present
a novel planar AMC structure which is inserted between the
on-chip antenna and the lossy silicon substrate.
In view of wireless access applications, the circularly polarized (CP) property is very desirable for 60-GHz antennas. For
the commonly used linearly-polarized (LP) antenna, we have to
rotate the transmitting and receiving antenna properly for polarization matching, particularly in the case of the line-of-sight
radio links. Using the CP antenna this problem can be mitigated
while also allowing for reduction in interference from multipath reflections. Some researchers have introduced 60-GHz CP
antennas using LTCC technology and PCB fabrication process
[16][19]. There is no CP antenna design among those previous
60-GHz antennas using commercial CMOS technology. In this

0018-926X/$31.00 2012 IEEE



Fig. 1. Geometry of proposed novel AMC cell structure.

Fig. 3. Simulated reflection phase of wave incident on AMC structure.

Fig. 2. HFSS simulation model for an AMC cell. (a) The geometry and the
wave-port excitation. (b) Perfect-E and (c) perfect-H symmetry planes.

paper, we employ a circular open-loop antenna for the circular

polarization property. An open-loop antenna has been studied
for CP operation and parasitic element was introduced for bandwidth enhancement in [20]. However, coaxial feed cannot be
used because there is no vertical via for the conventional silicon
process. As a result, we combined the CP loop antenna with
coplanar waveguide (CPW) feed [21] and integrated with modified AMC plane for further CMOS fabrication and performance
In Section II, the design and analysis of our novel AMC is
presented. In Section III, the integration and optimization of antenna with AMC is demonstrated. The simulated and measured
results of the proposed antenna are delivered in Section IV.
The AMC plane is also designated as high-impedance surface
(HIS) or perfect magnetic conductor (PMC). The reflection coefficient of a plane TEM wave incidence on PEC is
which suggests the reflected wave will cancel with the incident
wave. On the contrary, the AMC plane exhibits a reflection coefficient of
, which means that the phase of the reflected
wave is 0 compared to the phase of the incident wave. Therefore, an AMC plane can produce constructively in-phase reflections with the incident wave at a specified operating frequency
band and consequently stronger radiation can be generated.
Fig. 1 shows the top view of an AMC unit cell. The substrate is silicon with permittivity
. To accurately characterize the reflection phase of wave incident on the AMC, the
FEM-based 3-D full-wave EM solver, Ansoft HFSS, is used
for the design simulation. The HFSS model to compute the reflection phase characteristics of the proposed AMC structure is
shown in Fig. 2. This model is based on simulating scattering

Fig. 4. (a) AMC structure and (b) its equivalent circuit.

parameters of a single port air filled waveguide with two perfect electric conductors (PECs) and two perfect magnetic conductors (PMCs) walls [12]. The propagating plane wave is polarized parallel to the PMC walls and normal to the PEC walls.
The waveguide is then terminated to a single unit cell of the
proposed AMC structure and the reflection phase is obtained by
calculating the scattering parameter at the input of this single
port waveguide. Compared with other conventional methods,
this simple model is more fast and accurate.
In AMC designs, the phase curve of the reflected field of a
plane wave which is incident on an AMC surface is a very important characteristic. Obtaining this phase curve helps the designer to realize the AMC condition at or near a desired frequency, where the phase of the reflected wave should be close
to 0 . Fig. 3 shows the simulated reflection phase. The proposed AMC surface exhibits a reflection phase of 0 at 60 GHz.
The frequency bandwidth of the HFSS-optimized AMC is between 52.5 and 67 GHz, at which the reflection phase is within
90 and 90 . Compared with previous AMC for 60-GHz
radio, this bandwidth of 24% is larger. For the unlicensed 7-GHz
working bandwidth, from 57 to 64 GHz, the reflection phase is
within 54.5 and 66.4 .
A periodic grid consisting of a large number of AMC cells
can be considered as a frequency selective surface (FSS) or a
high impedance surface (HIS), where it could be analyzed using
the theory of transmission lines and periodic circuits [22]. Fig. 4
shows the AMC structure along with its equivalent circuit which
can be simply configured as RLC resonant circuit, where the resistor R represents the low resistivity of the silicon substrate, the
capacitor C represents the coupling between two adjacent AMC



Fig. 7. Reflection phase of AMCs with different

Fig. 5. Reflection phase of AMCs with different .

Fig. 6. Reflection phase of AMCs with different

cells and coupling between traces and ground, the inductor L

represents the traces.
Among all these equivalent circuit parameters, the width
between two adjacent AMC units and the width
of metal strip
are the most crucial parameter in fixing an
AMC structure, which affects the capacitance in the equivalent
circuit and further determines the operation frequency of the
proposed AMC structure. Simulated reflection phase of AMCs
with different and
are plotted in Figs. 5 and 6, respectively. With increasing width between adjacent AMC units or
increasing width
of metal strip of AMC unit, the AMC operation frequency would both decrease.
The adding of two diagonal metal strips brings some extra
freedom, which would affect the slope of curves and thus affect the bandwidth of the AMC. By this way, the bandwidth of
AMC can be adjusted and optimized. Fig. 7 shows that the reflection phase bandwidths of AMC with
equals 0.13, 0.115,
and 0.145 mm are 20%, 22.5%, and 25%, respectively.
However, according to the standard six-metal-layer 0.18- m
CMOS technology fabrication limitations, the maximum metal
strip size on M1 is 30 m by width and 500 m by length, while
the slant metal strips must be in 45 degree and the minimum
fabricated line width and gap should be better than 23 m. In
order to meet those fabrication guidelines, we optimized
, and
to make the operating center frequency be adjusted
to 60 GHz. The structure is ultimately optimized to be

Fig. 8. Geometry of the CP on-chip antenna.


m, and
m, in order that the reflection phase is zero at 60 GHz
and the bandwidth of AMC is as wide as 25%.
A. On-Chip CP Antenna Design
Loop antennas are usually used as linearly polarized antennas
[23]. In previous research, it has been found that a loop antenna can radiate circularly polarized waves if a gap is cut on
the loop. The reason why this CP radiation can be produced is
that the traveling wave current distribution gets excited along
the open loop. Unfortunately, the bandwidth of the CP loop antenna is much less than that achieved by spiral antennas. It is
found that the AR bandwidth of a CP loop antenna can be significantly increased by adding another loop inside the original
loop [20]. The addition of this parasitic element can produce
one more resonance that leads to a considerable enhancement
for the AR bandwidth. Since the additional parasitic element is
placed inside the original loop and there is no direct electrical
connection to its surrounding, there is no significant increase in
size and complexity of the antenna structure.
As shown in Fig. 8, the CP antenna consists of two open wire
loops placed above the lossy silicon substrate. The outer loop,




Fig. 10. Simulated gain of single loop and double loop CP antennas.

Fig. 9. Simulated axial ratio of single loop and double loop CP antennas.

fed at
by a CPW feed, acts as a driven loop, while the
inner loop acts as a parasitic element. A small gap is cut on each
loop in order to radiate a CP wave. By adjusting the size of parasitic loop, the positions of two gaps, an optimal performance
for the on-axis (in the direction) axial ratio can be achieved. A
CPW feed is employed here so that it can be easily connected to
the GSG probe station for measurement. The width of the feed
and distance
between feed and grounded rectangular
pads are optimized to be 60 m and 35 m for 50- matching,
respectively. The configuration parameters are summarized in
Table I.
Figs. 9 and 10 show the axial ratio and gain performance of
the CP antennas with and without the parasitic inner loop, respectively. It is confirmed that adding a parasitic loop can introduce one more AR resonance. The axial ratio bandwidth has
been increased from 10.8% to 23.5%, while the gain has been
decreased by approximately 1.5 dBi for the coupling loss between two loops.
B. Integration of the Antenna With Modified AMC Plane
The loop antenna is then placed on the AMC plane and simulated together. In this fabrication, the mutual coupling between
the antenna and the AMC plane is extremely strong and affects
antenna performances greatly. In order to reduce this mutual
coupling, an AMC plane of 12 12 units is modified by gradually removing the unit elements from the center region of the
AMC plane underneath the loop antenna. Figs. 11 and 12 show
the gain, and axial ratio performance of the antenna combined

Fig. 11. Axial ratio of antennas with different modified AMC planes.

Fig. 12. Gain of antennas with different modified AMC planes.

with 4 4 AMC units removed blank plane, 6 7 AMC units

removed blank plane and full AMC plane, respectively.
The undesirably large axial ratio for the antenna integrated
with full AMC plane can be due to the radiation of the AMC
reflector. On the other side, the AMC plane can make the reflected wave in phase with the incident wave, therefore increase
the gain performance. So we have to keep at least three column
AMC units at most of the area. Taking the area limit of the fabrication, the reflection function of AMC plane, and axial ratio
variation due to AMC plane, we optimized to achieve a tradeoff



Fig. 15. Antenna test setup: (a) pattern measurement; (b) polarization study.
AUT: antenna under test.
Fig. 13. Comparison of antenna with PEC layer and modified AMC layer.

Fig. 16. Photograph of the proposed CP on-chip antenna: (a) attached on a

conductor carrier for easy measurement; (b) zoom in under a microscope.

Fig. 14. 3-D explored view of the proposed antenna with modified AMC plane.

of the whole structure. With the introduction of AMC, more

freedom is added to optimize the antenna performance.
To further illustrate the function of the AMC in behaving like
PMC surface and then enhancing the antenna performance, we
fulfilled the simulation of the antenna with the solid perfect electric conductor (PEC) reflector with a rectangular opening in the
middle region similar to the modified AMC layer. The results
in Fig. 13 proved that the gain of antenna with PEC reflector is
much lower than that of antenna with modified AMC layer. The
antenna with the final modified AMC plane is shown in Fig. 14.
The antenna was measured by Rohde & Schwarz vector network analyzer (VNA) ZVA75 up to 75 GHz. A GSG RF probe
with a pitch of 100 m was touched on the GCPW line of
the antenna for measurement. The antenna patterns were measured with the set up shown in Fig. 15(a). With the proper probe
touching, the tested antenna senses the radiation in the boresight
direction from a WR-15 standard pyramidal horn antenna. The
horn antenna has an aperture size of 13 10 mm and a gain
of 15 dBi. The far field region limit of the horn antenna can be
calculated as
cm, where is the largest dimension of the horn and is the free space wavelength. The distance between the horn aperture and the antenna under the test

is set around 15 cm. Fig. 16 exhibits a photograph of the fabricated prototype of this AMC-based CP on-chip antenna using
the CMOS technology, including one picture for the case attached on a conductor carrier for easy on-wafer measurement
and one under a microscope.
Fig. 17 shows the simulated and measured results for the antenna. Fig. 17(a) shows that this proposed antenna can offer
an ultrawide impedance matching bandwidth from 34 GHz to
105 GHz for
is less than 10 dB from the simulation. The
measurement results from 55 to 65 GHz confirmed with the simulation. From Fig. 17(a), it is observed that the measured
is approximately 2 dB worse than that from simulation, which
could be caused by the measurement setup and the deviation
of the silicon substrate characteristics setting in the simulation
from its actual values. Fig. 17(b) shows a simulated and measured peak gain values are at 3.7 dBi at 60 GHz and 4.4 dBi
at 65 GHz, respectively. Fig. 17(c) shows that the simulated
axial ratio
bandwidth is approximately 28.3%, from
57 to 74 GHz. Gain and AR measurement confirmed with the
simulation for the frequency range from 57 to 67 GHz.
Finally, the antenna far-field radiation pattern is measured.
The horn antenna is placed on the top of the antenna under test
(AUT). The apertures of the two antennas are both paralleled
to the xy-plane. The tests are then conducted with horn at 0
position ( field of horn is in the -direction) and 90 position ( field of horn is in the -direction), respectively. Fig. 18
shows the measured radiation pattern in the upper half-plane at
57 GHz, 60 GHz, and 64 GHz, compared with the simulated radiation pattern of the proposed antenna. Good agreement is obtained between simulation and measurement for the gain, AR,
and radiation patterns.
Table II shows the performance comparison between our
work and those in reported articles [4][7], [24], [25].




Fig. 18. Measured and simulated XOZ-plane & YOZ-plane radiation patterns
at (a) 57 GHz, (b) 60 GHz, and (c) 64 GHz.


Fig. 17. Measured and simulated performance of the proposed antenna:

; (b) gain; (c) axial ratio.

A 60-GHz circularly polarized on-chip antenna, which employs a modified AMC structure to increase the antenna performance, has been designed using the conventional 0.18- m
CMOS process. The fabricated antenna including the modified
AMC structure measures only 1.8 1.8 0.3 mm . The antenna test has been conducted to verify the antenna performance.



The wide impedance matching bandwidth, the gain and the circularly polarized characteristics have been measured and confirmed its good performance in prospective applications. The
peak gain in the 60-GHz band is 4.4 dBi at 65 GHz. The circularly polarized bandwidth can cover the frequency range 57
GHz to 67 GHz. The proposed antenna could be integrated to
CMOS circuits for further application in the 60 GHz wireless
personal area network.
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Xiao-Yue Bao received the B.Eng. degree from

the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), Harbin,
China, in 2009. She is currently working towards the
Ph.D. degree at the National University of Singapore
(NUS), Singapore.
Since August 2009, she has been with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, NUS.
Her main research interests include silicon-based
millimeter-wave on-chip antennas, LTCC-based
millimeter-wave antenna design, and TSV antenna
design for millimeter-wave applications.

Yong Xin Guo (SM05) received the Ph.D. degree in

electronic engineering from City University of Hong
Kong in 2001.
He joined the Department of Electrical and
Computer Engineering, National University of
Singapore (NUS), as an Assistant Professor in
February 2009. From July 2004 to January 2009, he
was an Adjunct Assistant/Associate Professor of the
National University of Singapore. From September
2001 to January 2009, he was with the Institute
for Infocomm Research, Singapore, as a Research
Scientist. He has authored or coauthored 97 international journal papers and
110 international conference papers. Thus far, his publications have been cited
by others more than 800 times and the H-index is 17 (source: Scopus). He
holds one Chinese Patent and one U.S. patent. His current research interests
include microstrip antennas for wireless communications, implantable/wearable antennas, silicon-based on-chip antennas, low-temperature cofired
ceramics-based system-on-package technology and antenna in package, MMIC
modeling and design, and RF energy harvesting for smart grids.
Dr. Guo served as a Technical Program Committee (TPC) Co-Chair for the
IEEE International Symposium on Radio Frequency Integration Technology
(RFIT2009). He has been an Organizer and Chair for a special session on
60-GHz Systems in APMC2008 and a Workshop on Radio-Over-Fiber in
RWS2008. He has been a TPC member and Session Chair for numerous
conferences and workshops. He has also been on the Editorial Boards of the
International Journal of RF and Microwave Computer-Aided Engineering, and
International Journal of Microwave Science and Technology. His Ph.D. student
received the best student paper award in 2010 International conference on
microwave and millimeter wave technology (ICMMT2010), Chengdu, China.
He was a recipient of the Young Investigator Award 2009, National University
of Singapore.


Yong-Zhong Xiong (M98SM02) received the

B.S. and M.Eng. degrees in communication and
electronic systems from the Nanjing University of
Science and Technology (NUST), Nanjing, China, in
1986 and 1990, respectively, and the Ph.D. degree in
electrical and electronic engineering from Nanyang
Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
From 1986 to 1994, he was with NUST, where he
was involved with microwave systems and circuit design in the Department of Electronic Engineering. In
1994, he was with NTU as a Research Scholar. From
1995 to 1997, he was with the RF and Radios Department, Singapore Technologies (ST, Singapore), as a Senior Engineer. He was also affiliated with the Centre
for Wireless Communications, National University of Singapore, in 1996, where
he was involved with the RFID Project. Until the end of 1997, he was with the


Microelectronics Centre, NTU. Since September 2001, he was with the Institute of Microelectronics (IME) of Singapore as a Principal Investigator (PI).
Currently, he is working with MicorArray Technologies Co. Ltd., as a Chief
Technical Officer (CTO). He has authored or coauthored over 130 technical papers. His major areas of research include monolithic RF and microwave integrated circuit (RFIC/MMIC) design, and device modeling and characterization.
He holds several issued patents.
Dr. Xiong has served as a technical reviewer for the IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON
MICROWAVE AND WIRELESS COMPONENT LETTERS, and also served on committees of the Singapore IEEE MTT Chapter and the IEEE International Workshop
on Radio-Frequency Integration Technology.