The large unlicensed 3 GHz overlapping bandwidth that is available worldwide at 60 GHz has resulted in renewed interest in 60 GHz technology. This frequency band has made it attractive for short-range gigabit wireless communication. The power amplifier (PA) directly influences the performance and quality of this entire communication chain, as it is one of the final subsystems in the transmitter. Spectral efficient modulation schemes used at 60 GHz pose challenging requirements for the linearity of the PA. To improve the linearity, several external linearisation techniques currently exist, such as feedback, feedforward, envelope elimination and restoration, linear amplification with non-linear components and predistortion.
This thesis is aimed at investigating and characterising the distortion components found in PAs at mm-wave frequencies and evaluating whether an adaptive predistortion (APD) linearisation technique is suitable to reduce these distortion components. After a thorough literature study and mathematical analysis, it was found that the third-order intermodulation distortion (IMD3) components were the most severe distortion components. Predistortion was identified as the most effective linearisation technique in terms of minimising these IMD3 components and was therefore proposed in this research. It does not introduce additional complexity and can easily be integrated with the PA.
Furthermore, the approach is stable and has lower power consumption when compared to the aforementioned linearisation techniques. The proposed predistortion technique was developed compositely through this research by making it a function of the PA’s output power that was measured using a power detector. A comparator was used with the detected output power and the reference voltages to control the dynamic bias circuit of the variable gain amplifier. This provided control and flexibility on when to apply the predistortion to the PA and therefore allowing the linearity of the PA to be optimised. Three-stage non-linear and linear PAs were also designed at 60 GHz and implemented to compare the performance of the APD technique and form part of the hypothesis verification process.
The 130 nm silicon-germanium (SiGe) bipolar and complementary metal oxide semiconductor (BiCMOS) technology from IBM was used for the simulation of the entire APD and PA design and for the fabrication of the prototype integrated circuits (ICs). This technology has the advantage of integrating the high performance, low power intensive SiGe heterojunction bipolar transistors (HBTs) with the CMOS technology. The SiGe HBTs have a high cut-off frequency (fT > 200 GHz), which is ideal for mm-wave PA applications and the CMOS components were integrated in the control logic of the digital circuitry. The simulations and IC layout were accomplished with Cadence Virtuoso. The implemented IC occupies an area of 1.8 mm by 2.0 mm.
The non-linear PA achieves a Psat of 11.97 dBm and an IP1dB of -10 dBm. With the APD technique applied, the linearity of the PA is significantly improved with an IP1dB of -6 dBm and an optimum IMD3 reduction of 10 dB. Based on the findings and results of the applied APD technique, APD reduced intermodulation distortion (especially the IMD3) and is thus suitable to improve the linearity of PAs at mm-wave frequencies. To the knowledge of this author, no APD technique has been applied for PAs at 60 GHz, therefore the contribution of this research will assist future PA designers to characterise and optimise the reduction of the IMD3 components. This will result in improved linear output power from the PA and the use of complex modulation schemes at 60 GHz.