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Wide-B andwidth InGaP-GaAs HBT VoltageControlled Oscillators in K- and Ku-Band

Chau-Ching Chiong, Hong-Yeh Chang*, and Ming-Tang Chen


Academia Sinica, Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, P.O. Box 23-14 1, Taipei 10617,
Taiwan, R.O.C.
*Department of Electrical Engineering, National Central University, Jhongli 32001, Taiwan, R.O.C.
Abstract - A series of voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO)
covering 12 to 21 GHz with double-tuned configuration using
commercially available 2-gm GaAs heterojunction bipolar
transistor (HBT) technology is presented. Double-tuned
topology improves the tuning bandwidth and linearity in
voltage sensitivity. The tuning bandwidth of the VCOs ranges
from 21 to 25%, with phase noise of -117 to -124 dBc/Hz at 1
MHz offset from the carrier. The overall dc power
consumption of the VCO is 75 mW with a supply voltage of -3
V. To the best authors' knowledge, this work demonstrates
the best FOM among all the reported VCOs at K- and Kuband, when tuning range is taken into account.
Index Terms - GaAs, HBT, VCO, wide tuning range, low
phase noise.

I. INTRODUCTION

In modem radio astronomical receiving system, power


source has been long time dominated by the yttrium-irongarnet (YIG) and the Gunn oscillators. They both feature
wide bandwidth and low phase noise performance in the
microwave and millimeter-wave regime. On the other hand,
with the advance of MMIC technologies, an integrated

voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) is already widely


employed in microwave communication systems, such as
short distance radar and high-speed data transmission
systems [1]. MMIC VCO is thus an attractive alternative to
the YIG and the Gunn oscillators in radio astronomical
applications. MMIC VCO with its cheap, light-weightiness,
easily-controlled and low power-consumption is an ideal
choice for future large antenna arrays applications, e.g.
SMAa SKAb and ALMAC.
In general, the design considerations of VCO are the
phase noise, the tuning range, the dc power consumption
and the output power. Among these consideration, wide
tuning range and low phase noise are the most challenging.
The phase noise of the VCO near carrier frequency
typically depends on the quality factor (Q) of the resonator,
and the noise of the active devices. The flick-noise (11/)
performance of GaAs HBT device is better than that of
a

http://sma-www.harvard.edu/

http://www.skatelescope.org/
http;//www.alma.cl/

978-1-4244-1886-2/08/$25.00 2008 IEEE.

CMOS or HIEMT device [2]. Therefore, the GaAs HBT


technology is generally considered as a good choice for
low phase noise VCOs.
Furthermore, when oscillator is used in a phase-lockedloop (PLL), the variation of tuning sensitivity over the
frequency range is another important consideration. In the
past, due to the nature of varactor, MMIC VCO usually has
large variance in frequency sensitivity within the tuning
bandwidth. Sensitivity of tuning voltage in oscillating
frequency will affect the equivalent loop bandwidth in the
PLL system when VCO is locked. If a VCO's tuning
sensitivity varies dramatically over the tuning band, the
PLL synthesizer's performance suffers. This is not desired
in modem microwave and millimeter-wave receiving
system.
Some K- and Ku-band MMIC VCOs with low phase
noise have been presented using GaAs-, InP- and SiGebased HBT technologies [3]-[8], but their tuning range is
quite narrow. VCOs with wide tuning range can be seen in
the literatures. However, the power consumption in these
circuits are high [9]-[1 1], or the output power is low [12].
In this paper, VCOs with double-tuned topology are
proposed by using the 2-gm GaAs HBT technology
provided by the WIN Semiconductors. Three VCOs are
designed to cover the frequency range of 12 to 21 GHz.
The VCOs feature wide tuning range and low noise
performance.

Fig. 1. Configuration ofthe VCO with CB and double-tuned topology.

GSMM2008 Proceeding

II. CIRCUIT TOPOLOGY AND DESIGN METHODOLOGY

The HBT device of the WIN Semiconductors 2-gm


GaAs HBT process typically exhibits a maximum unit
current gain frequency (fT) of higher than 40 GHz, and a
maximum unit power gain frequency (fmax) of higher than
100 GHz. The metal-insulator-metal (MIM) capacitor,
spiral inductor, and thin film resistor are also available in
the process.
The basic building block of the double-tuned VCO is
shown in Fig. 1. Common-base (CB) configuration is
adopted for wide band operation. The base inductor is
performed as a feedback path. It de-stabilizes the circuit at
the designed oscillating frequency range to provide
negative resistance. The design is a "double-tuned"
oscillator, in which there are two varactors in the circuit to
obtain wide tuning bandwidth [13-14]. The LC network at
emitter determines the oscillation frequency, while LC
network at base provides negative resistance in the circuit
at desired frequency range.
TABLE I
DESIGN PARAMETERS OF THREE VCOS

VCOA
VCOB
(W/L)
387/20gtm
318/20gtm
Lel
Le2 (W/L)
542/20gtm 408/20gtm
Lb (W/L)
826/20gtm 1633/20gtm
146/20gtm 390/20gtm
Lc (W/L)
20gtm 2 20gtm 2
Db (emitter
length/number)
20gm 2 20gm 2
De (emitter
length/number)
0.2 pF
0.75 pF
Cb
I pF
0.5 pF
Cv
Cc / Ce
0.75pF / 5pF
21 mA
IC
-0.75 V
Vbb
-3 V
Vee
Le2

VCO C
418/20 gtm
862/20 gtm

1600/20gtm

261/20 gtm
20gtm 2
20 gm 4

IpF
0.5 pF

III. EXPERIMENTAL RESULTS

Lel

Ic

Vee
cv

The schematic of the single-ended double-tuned VCO is


shown in Fig. 2. Detail resonator analysis and selection of
inductor at emitter can be found in [15]. After choosing
suitable LC values at resonator (Lel, Le2, De, Cv), LC
network at base (Lb, Db, Cb) are selected by circuit
simulator [16]. Ce provides RF ground, and L, is chosen by
optimizing output power. By proper selection, the varactor
at base extends oscillating bandwidth, mainly at high
frequency side, and thus improves the overall linearity of
the VCO sensitivity curve. To further suppress the noise
and stabilize the oscillation of the VCO, a few in-band
bypass capacitors are required in the bias circuit.
The microstrip lines are used as inductive element.
Collector-base (CB) junction of HBT transistor is used as
varactor. Two varactors are controlled by single tuning
voltage (Vtu) for the purpose of simplifying the oscillator
control. All of the passive components, such as microstrip
lines, dc-block and bypass capacitors, are all simulated
with a full-wave EM simulator [17]. The design
parameters of three VCOs are listed in Table 1. Three
VCOs based on the some topology are designed to cover
frequency range from 12 to 21 GHz. The chip photo of
VCO A is shown in Fig. 3 with a chip size of 2 X 1.5 mm2.

*Vbb

Cb

Db

Fig. 2. Schematic of the single-ended, double-tuned VCO.

The measurements of the VCOs are performed via onwafer probing with Agilent PSA. The total dc current
consumption of the VCO is 25 mA with a supply voltage of
-3 V. The measured output frequency versus the tuning
voltage (VtJ) from -3 to 2 V is plotted in Fig. 4. Fig. 5
illustrates the output power of the three VCOs versus Vt"
from -3 to 2 V. The maximum output power of the VCOs
are 3.7, 6.8, and 1.7 dBm at the output GSG pad. A
summary of the oscillating frequency and the tuning range
of each VCO can be found in Table II. The tuning range of
VCO A, VCO B and VCO C are 25%, 23%, and 21%,
respectively. The spectrum of VCO A with Vt1 = -1 V is

shown in Fig. 6, with a phase noise of -118.5 dBc/Hz at 1MHz offset frequency, while the spectrum of VCO B with
Vw = 2 V is shown in Fig. 7, with a phase noise of -124.6
dBc/Hz at 1-MHz offset frequency.
The comparisons of the previously reported K- and Ku
band VCOs and this work are summarized in Table II. The
performance of a VCO can be evaluated by two figures of
merit (FOM), which can be defined as in [18]
FOM1

fo
+ 10 log(pdss, (2)
L(Afoff7et)-20
log:~~~~~Afoffse)
1

FOM2 = FOM1 +20lg

f9 J

(3)

where L(Afojset) is the phase noise measured at offset


frequency Affofset, fo is the oscillation frequency, Pdiss is the
dc power consumption (mW), and Affune is the tuning range.
Therefore, our VCOs exhibit FOM1 of -181 to -190 and
FOM2 of -168 to -173. As can be observed, this work
demonstrates the lowest FOM1 among all the reported
VCOs, except the extremely narrow-bandwidth HBT
VCOs [5,7]. In term of FOM2, this work shows outstanding
performance thanks to the wide tuning range.
22
cJ

a)
a1)

_-

C)

20
18
16
14
12
-2

-1
0
Vtu (V)

10

5
0

-5

~VCOA

<

L-vco B

-10

VCO C

-15

"I

..............1

S3 FC

f >5Bk
Center 18.6;26 32 GHza

Span 10 MHlz

Fig. 6. Measured output spectrum of VCO A with Vtu = -1 V. Measured


phase noise at 1-MHz offset is -118.5 dBc/Hz.
A Mkrl 1 MHz
-74.556 dB
-

tten 20dB

Ref 1 d1_Bm

Samp

Log

.10

it

| |I

IAR
;E(f):
Spp
f >50k

tuning voltage, VtU.

oE

MHz'

wWI S2X

Fig. 4. Measured output oscillating frequency of three VCOs versus the

a)

1.000000

LgBv -68504 dB

VCO B

iR

1.

dB/

VCO A

10
-3

anmp

-Marker 6
1.000000 MHz _11
LgHv '-74 SS6 dB

vco C

Mkr1 1.Ut MK2


-68.504 dB
-

Rtten ;20dB

RFef 1 0 dBEm

|-

--

I.-

=|

Clenter 18.187 03 GHz


Span 11MHH
#Res BW 100 kHVB 100 kHz
Sweep 3.84 ms (6
Fig. 7. Measured output spectrum of VCO B with Vtu = 2 V. Measured
phase noise at 1-MHz offset is -124.6 dBc/Hz.

IV. CONCLUSIONS
The design and measurement of three double-tuned
VCOs using 2-gm GaAs HBT technology have been
presented in this paper. These VCOs demonstrate wide
bandwidth performance by using a double-tuned CB

configuration. This topology extends tuning bandwidth and


improves the linearity in VCO sensitivity. The center
frequency of three VCOs are 18.5, 16.3, and 13.3 GHz,
with tuning bandwidth of 21% to 25%. The VCOs exhibit
phase noise of -117 to -124 dBc/Hz at 1-MHz offset from
the carrier frequency. The maximum output power is about
6 dBm. The dc power consumption is 75 mW. A

comparison of the FOM with previously reported VCOs


shows outstanding performance with the proposed
V tu (V)
topology.
ThisGun
is thus a promising
to the
VCOosctors
YIgan
The
i moden alternative
radio
tonomy
Fig. 5. Meastured output power at GSG pad of three VCOs versus the
in
and
the
oscillators
radio
modern
Gunn
astronomy
tuning voltage, Vtr
tuning volage, Vt,,.YIG
-3

-2

-1

receivers.

TABLE II
COMPARISONS OF PREVIOUSLY REPORTED K- AND KU-BAND VCOS AND THIS WORK
Center
Tuning
Phase Noise
Output
Pdiss
I 1MHz offset
Pi rocess
Power
Frequency
Range
(m,")
(GHz)
(GHz)
(dBc/Hz)
(dBm)
InGaP/GaAs HBT
21.1
0.4
-108
-0.3
140
-114
InGaP/GaAs HBT
13.1
0.8
0
36
0
InGaP/GaAs HBT
12.9
0.2
196
-120o 100 kHz

Ref.
[3]
[4]
[5]

[6]

I-tm InAIAs/HnGaAs

[7]

[8]

InP RTD/HBT

0.25-gtm SiGe

[12]

BiCMOS
1.5-,um InP HBT
GaAs HBT
AlGaAs/GaAs HBT
025-m SiGe

This work
VCO A
VCO B
VCO C

2-,um GaAs HBT


2-,um GaAs HBT
2-,umGaAsHBT

[9]
[10]
[11]

17.7

[5]

[6]

[7]

-162

-138

1.42

-195

-173

130

-179

-152
-171

17.8

1.0

-113

17.6

7.7
1.5 octave
8

-90
-112
-75 a 100 kHz

-3
3.4
9

130

-178

125

-155

-152

5.0

-96

-22

-173

-161

0
3
0

75
75
75

-185
-190
-181

-173
-177
-168

11

20

BiCMOS

____________

18.5
16.3
13.3

4.6
3.7
2.8

-118
-124
-117

measurements.

[10]
REFERENCES

[4]

87

21.5

[9]

[3]

-140
-157
-163

10
-10
-6

[8]

[2]

-174
-181
-199

-96
-112

This work was supported in part by the ALMA-T


research project in ASIAA, Taipei, Taiwan, R. 0. C. The
chip was fabricated by the WIN Semiconductors Inc.
Taiwan, R. 0. C. CC thanks Ms. Ping-Chen Huang for help

[1]

FOM2

1.1
0.4

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

on

FOM,

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