So far in 2017, no part of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum has arguably received more attention in this industry than the millimeter-wave region. At the most recent EDICON RF and microwave show in Boston’s Prudential Center, millimeter-wave cables and components were on display, test equipment for characterizing those components were being demonstrated, and workshops and technical sessions were addressing the coming needs of 5G wireless networks and automotive electronic systems for millimeter-wave components. The bandwidth is there and available if the industry can find the ways to deliver cost-effective components.
One of the more vital of millimeter-wave components is the power amplifier (PA), since it provides the means of boosting signals levels that are often fairly low at those high frequencies (30 to 300 GHz). Designing a millimeter-wave PA is not trivial. Just the act of sorting through candidates for circuit materials, active devices, and transmission-line technologies—to say nothing of making it all fit in a cost-effective package—requires a fair amount of starting knowledge.
Fortunately, a newly launched “Basics of Design” white paper sponsored by National Instruments AWR Corp., “Raising the Levels of 5G Millimeter-Wave Signals,” provides all the essentials of designing millimeter-wave PAs—specifically, for 5G applications—in a free, downloadable, and easy-to-digest format. In an age where time to market can mean the difference between success and failure, no matter how good the product, this Basics of Design stresses the importance of working with modern computer-aided-engineering (CAE) software simulation tools such as AWR’s Microwave Office.
While derivation of fundamental design equations, such as impedance-matching relationships for PAs, is still an excellent way to learn about the critical relationships among transmission lines, passive components, and active semiconductor devices in a PA circuit design, such software tools benefit from proven device and component models. They can provide 10 or more looks at different PA configurations in the time that those fundamental equations are still being solved (if they are being solved).
The National Instruments’ Basics of Design on PA design provides a practical starting point on understanding key differences between amplifiers for 30 GHz and above and for amplifiers at lower frequencies. It also provides insights into system-level issues as viewed by service providers such as Verizon, detailing that company’s 5G downlink model and how it impacts the design of a millimeter-wave amplifier for 5G.
If 5G has been top of mind, then this is an important piece of literature for your collection. It includes information on EM simulations, load-pull and source-pull analysis, and the use of vector network analyzers (VNAs) for characterizing 5G PAs. “Raising the Levels of 5G Millimeter-Wave Signals” can be downloaded here.