Speed, power and reliability of analogue integrated circuits (IC) exhibit temperature dependency through the modulation of one or several of the following variables: band gap energy of the semiconductor, mobility, carrier diffusion, current density, threshold voltage, interconnect resistance, and variability in passive components. Some of the adverse effects of temperature variations are observed in current and voltage reference circuits, and frequency drift in oscillators. Thermal instability of a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) is a critical design factor for radio frequency ICs, such as transceiver circuits in communication networks, data link protocols, medical wireless sensor networks and microelectromechanical resonators. For example, frequency drift in a transceiver system results in severe inter-symbol interference in a digital communications system. Minimum transconductance required to sustain oscillation is specified by Barkhausen’s stability criterion. However it is common practice to design oscillators with much more transconductance enabling self-startup. As temperature is increased, several of the variables mentioned induce additional transconductance to the oscillator. This in turn translates to a negative frequency drift.
Conventional approaches in temperature compensation involve temperature-insensitive biasing proportional-to-absolute temperature, modifying the control voltage terminal of the VCO using an appropriately generated voltage. Improved frequency stability is reported when compensation voltage closely follows the frequency drift profile of the VCO. However, several published articles link the close association between oscillation amplitude and oscillation frequency. To the knowledge of this author, few published journal articles have focused on amplitude control techniques to reduce frequency drift. This dissertation focuses on reducing the frequency drift resulting from temperature variations based on amplitude control. A corresponding hypothesis is formulated, where the research outcome proposes improved frequency stability in response to temperature variations.
In order to validate this principle, a temperature compensated VCO is designed in schematic and in layout, verified using a simulation program with integrated circuit emphasis tool using the corresponding process design kit provided by the foundry, and prototyped using standard complementary metal oxide semiconductor technology. Periodic steady state (PSS) analysis is performed using the open loop VCO with temperature as the parametric variable in five equal intervals from 0 – 125 °C. A consistent negative frequency shift is observed in every temperature interval (≈ 11 MHz), with an overall frequency drift of 57 MHz. However similar PSS analysis performed using a VCO in the temperature stabilised loop demonstrates a reduced negative frequency drift of 3.8 MHz in the first temperature interval. During the remaining temperature intervals the closed loop action of the amplitude control loop overcompensates for the negative frequency drift, resulting in an overall frequency spread of 4.8 MHz. The negative frequency drift in the first temperature interval of 0 to 25 °C is due to the fact that amplitude control is not fully effective, as the oscillation amplitude is still building up. Using the temperature stabilised loop, the overall frequency stability has improved to 16 parts per million (ppm)/°C from an uncompensated value of 189 ppm/°C.
The results obtained are critically evaluated and conclusions are drawn. Temperature stabilised VCOs are applicable in applications or technologies such as high speed-universal serial bus, serial advanced technology attachment where frequency stability requirements are less stringent. The implications of this study for the existing body of knowledge are that better temperature compensation can be obtained if any of the conventional compensation schemes is preceded by amplitude control.
Dissertation (MEng)--University of Pretoria, 2014.