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The Quest For Low Phase Noise

Phase noise can degrade the performance of the most sophisticated wireless communications system, especially when it is based on digital modulation. It is no surprise, then, that the best paper award for a nominal measurement conference, the November ARMMS Conference (, should go to a presentation on achieving lower phase noise with a frequency synthesizer using a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO). The recognition went to Alexander Chenakin of Phase Matrix, Inc., who explained how to cut phase noise for a VCO even when multiplying its frequencies.

Chenakin, interviewed earlier this year in Microwaves & RF, reported on low phase noise of -122 dBc/Hz offset 10 kHz from a 10-GHz carrier. Normally, a YIG oscillator is needed for such low-noise performance. But this design was based on a VCO, with its inherently faster (than a YIG) tuning speed. The low-phase-noise results for the VCO-based synthesizer, of course, support a wide range of test equipment, including spectrum analyzers and signal generators, not to mention all those digitally modulated wireless communications systems.

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