Efficiency enhancement and frequency-tunable capability in linear CMOS RF power amplifiers for wireless applications

This research work deals with the design of linear CMOS RF power amplifiers. Two important aspects are treated: efficiency enhancement and frequency-tunable capability. For this purpose, two different integrated circuits were realized in a 0.11 µm technology, each one addressing a different aspect. With respect to efficiency enhancement, a dynamic supply RF power amplifier was realized. The circuit was designed for an operating frequency of 5.2 GHz, but measurements were also performed at 2.4 GHz. The integrated circuit includes a class A amplifier and a high-efficiency, switched-mode modulator. It occupies an area of 1.35 mm2. Two-tone measurement results at 2.4 and 5.2 GHz showed that the system can deliver over 16 dBm (40 mW) linear output power with efficiencies of 22.7% and 12.6%, respectively. Compared to a constant 2.5 V supply operation, the power amplifier operating with the dynamic supply delivers higher linear output power. Moreover, a relative efficiency improvement of a factor of 2.3 at 2.4 GHz and of a factor of 1.6 at 5.2 GHz at low output power levels is achieved. OFDM measurements at 2.4 GHz demonstrated that for an EVM lower than 3% and for an equal output power of 11 dBm (12.6 mW), the absolute improvement in efficiency is over 3.2%. In this work we also propose a tunable impedance matching network for use in multiband RF power amplifiers. This novel network is based on coupled inductors. A frequency-tunable RF power amplifier using this network was designed for operation at 3.7 and 5.2 GHz. Simulation results for the complete system integrated in a CMOS technology showed good results. However, the frequency-tunable behavior could not be observed in the characterization of the integrated circuit because of the low coupling factor of the integrated coupled inductors. A hybrid implementation using the integrated CMOS power amplifier, a discrete commercial RF transformer and a discrete bipolar transistor to control the current in the secondary winding of the transformer was carried out. The circuit was designed for operation at 200 and 300 MHz. The measurements have shown that at 200 MHz a relative improvement in efficiency of a factor of 1.4 was achieved. Moreover, less distortion was generated with the proposed tunable output matching network. The hybrid implementation allowed us to demonstrate the feasibility of the frequency-tunable RF power amplifier based on coupled inductors.


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