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Datasheet: AN644 (Maxim Integrated Products)

Quickchip Design Example 2 Low Power Silicon Bjt Lna For 1.9ghz


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Maxim Integrated Products Page 1 of 6
Application Note 644: Mar 17, 2000
QuickChip Design Example 2
Low Power Silicon BJT LNA for 1.9GHz
1998 IEEE. Reprinted, with permission, from 1998 IEEE Microwave and Guided Wave Letters, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 136-137
A two-stage 1.9GHz monolithic low-noise amplifier (LNA) with a measured noise figure of
2.3dB and an associated gain of 15dB was fabricated in a standard silicon bipolar transistor
array. It dissipates 5.2mW from a 3V supply including the bias circuitry. Input return loss and
isolation are -9dB and -20dB, respectively.
I. Introduction
In portable communication equipment, such as cellular phones and digital cordless phones,
manufacturers are trying to replace as many discrete devices as possible with high-density ICs
to be competitive in size, weight, power dissipation, and price. In a number of recent papers
low power LNAs for S-band have been described [1,2,3]. These LNAs were fabricated using
some sophisticated GaAs full-custom processes. Since the high frequency performance of state-
of-the-art silicon bipolar processes are continuously improving lowcost semi-custom arrays
with a limited choice of components provide a reasonable solution for RF applications.
In order to demonstrate such a solution, we present in this letter a very low-power monolithic
1.9GHz silicon LNA which draws a total current of 1.75mA including bias circuit.
II. Circuit Design
A schematic of the two-stage LNA is shown in
Fig. 1. The circuit employs a high-gain
common-emitter stage (Q1-RL) and a emitter-follower output stage (Q2-Q3). This approach
eliminates the need for coupling capacitors. The current of the first stage is set by a resistive
parallel feedback (R3 and R4), which is connected to the external matching inductor (L1) such
that no noise degradation occurs. Thus, only a single supply voltage is required. This feedback
also improves both the bias and RF stability of the amplifier. Page 2 of 6
Figure 1. Simplified schematic of the LNA (gray area: off-chip matching)
The circuit was simulated with Spice and with a linear simulator based on measured S- and
noise parameter data of the active device. Good agreement between simulated and measured
performance is found as shown in
Fig. 2.

Figure 2. Simulated vs. measured gain and input return loss Page 3 of 6
III. Measurements
The circuit was fabricated on a "Quickchip" transistor array with the Maxim GST-2 foundry
Fig. 3 shows the gain and noise figure of the circuit measured with the
HP8970B/HP8971C noise figure meter. The amplifier shows a rather flat frequency response of
the noise figure from 700MHz up to 2GHz. The best 50W noise figure of 2.3dB is achieved
between 1.7 and 2.3 GHz. Note that the active device has a minimum noise figure of 1.5dB at

Figure 3. Measured gain and noise figure (VCC = 3V, ICC = 1.75mA (bold line:
average noise figure)
The small signal gain is larger than 15dB up to 2GHz at the nominal bias of 3V. The
corresponding gain/DC-power figure of merit is 2.9dB/mW. Compared to other L-band LNAs,
this design shows low power consumption and a competitive noise figure as seen from
Fig. 4. Page 4 of 6

Figure 4. Gain to DC power ratio plotted versus noise figure for several state-of-the-art
L- and S-band LNAs
The noise figure is also quite insensitive to bias voltage variations. Varying the supply voltage
from 2.7 to 5V the noise figure remains between 2.2 and 2.5dB.
The designed amplifier has a measured -1dB input compression point of -24dBm, which equals
an output compression point of -9dBm. The third order intermodulation intercept point is
measured at -21dBm input power. This is adequate for DECT handheld terminal.
Fig. 5 shows a photograph of the lower right part of the 1.9 x 1.8mm
large chip containing the
Fig. 6 the chip can be seen as mounted on the substrate and bonded to the printed
input and output matching inductors. Page 5 of 6

Figure 5. shows a photograph of the lower right part of the 1.9 x 1.8 mm
large chip
containing the LNA. In Fig. 6 the chip can be seen as mounted on the substrate and
bonded to the printed input and output matching inductors.

Figure 6. Photograph of the Quickchip mounted on the test substrate. On the right are
the printed inductors for input and output matching.
IV Conclusions
A silicon bipolar low power LNA for 1.9GHz has been designed and tested. It shows a noise
figure of 2.3dB along with a 15dB gain. The power consumption is only 5.2mW resulting in a
high gain/DC-power figure of merit of 2.9dB/mW. The design was done on a transistor array
showing almost no performance degradation relative to full custom design.
V Acknowledgement
The authors wish to acknowledge MAXIM for providing access to their GST-2 Quickchip
[1] Heaney, F. McGrath, P. O'Sullivan, C. Kermarrec, "Ultra low power low noise amplifiers
for wireless communications", IEEE 1993 GaAs IC Symposium, pp. 49 - 51

[2] M. Nakatsugawa, Y. Yamaguchi, M. Muraguchi, "An L-band ultra low power consumption
monolithic low noise amplifier", IEEE 1993 GaAs IC Symposium, pp. 1745 - 1750
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