RF and mmWave Frontends research projects

Current projects

Wafer scale Integration of Photonics and Electronics (WIPE)
SponsorHorizon 2020 (European Commission)
DurationStart 01-12-2015, End 30-11-2019
PhD studentXi Zhang
SupervisorMarion Matters
Description

The WIPE project aims at developing hybrid electronic-photonic chips as a key enabling technology for data transmission purposes. It aims at bringing photonics to a new level by developing a concept that can be well industrialised. This sustains EU leadership in photonics, as is the ambition of the work program. A new wafer-scale technology will thus be developed for direct and intimate attachment of III-V Indium-Phosphide (InP) photonic integrated circuits (PICs) and BiCMOS electronic chips (ICs). The ICs contain the driver, receiver andcontrol electronics for the PIC and enable direct connection to polymer optical waveguides. This technology of ‘wafer scale heterogeneous integration’ enables high-performance and high-density photonic-electronic (photronic) modules are created having a lower energy consumption, lower packaging complexity and lower cost compared to modules using more traditional interconnection techniques like wire bonding and laser welding of fibre connections. Next to the new bonding technology, an integrated module design technology is developed for efficient co-design of hybrid photonic and electronic modules. A library consisting of photonic/electronic standard modules, is created leveraging the process design kits (PDKs) of the most important European foundries of photonic chips in combination with a powerful BiCMOS. These tools are of significantimportance to industry, since they offer photronic module designers a standardised approach that highly facilitates the module design for SMEs and affordable manufacturing by photonic and electronic foundries. The PDK is demonstrated through the prototyping of a 400Gb/s transceiver for data centre applications.

Photonic Electronic Integration at Wafer Scale (Photronics)
SponsorSTW
DurationStart 01-10-2015, End 30-09-2019
PhD studentXiao Liu
SupervisorMarion Matters
Description

We address a breakthrough solution to the problem of integrating photonic and electronic functionality. We use a wafer-scale approach for integrating photonic and electronic ICs fabricated in existing high-performance integration processes in a single chip. Photronic ICs – single-chip photonic-electronic integrated circuits – will outperform discrete electronicoptical systems in terms of performance, physical size and ease of assembly. Critical performance breakthroughs are directly targeted in high-speed data networks and precision metrology, with a number of future potential applications in non-invasive healthcare, safety systems, monitoring and control. Integration of Photonics and Electronics is a major theme in the Dutch MEMPHIS program. The present proposal builds on the expertise and capabilities developed in that program and a number of European cooperation projects, and combines it with a Dutch strength in the field of electronics. We partner with NXP, Dutch metrology and connectivity-solutions companies and also leading European InP photonic circuit manufacturers to prototype new high speed data links and sensor readouts. If successful, this project will further strengthen the position of the Netherlands in the Photonics landscape and help Europe to leapfrog the US and Asia in photonic-electronic integration.

EAST (smart Everything everywhere Access to content through Small cells Technologies)
SponsorCATRENE
DurationStart 15-09-2015, End 15-09-2017
Post-docZhe Song
SupervisorsHao Gao and Peter Baltus
Description

EAST (smart Everything everywhere Access to content through Small cells Technologies) will develop enablers and facilitators for 5G Small cells mobile networks up to 6 GHz. Key targets in comparison to existing 3/4G solutions are: enhanced data rates (video bandwidths > 100MHz), higher integration (10x to 100x size reduction), higher functionality (MIMO), dramatic costs reduction (10x to 100x), higher overall system efficiency (>60%), and re-configurability (multiple-transmit bands). To achieve these ambitious goals, major steps have to be taken at the system/design level (novel transmitter architectures), at the technology level (new silicon processes and packaging solutions), as well as in the development of characterization and modelling tools, which now need to handle the increased bandwidths and linearity requirements of 5G network applications. Focus of EAST will be on the overall integration of RF front-ends for 5G base station and handset applications with their critical building blocks, namely: the signal up-conversion / conditioning (DPD), PA, LNA, switches and antenna.

The objectives of EAST will be achieved through intensive cooperation in a consortium with industrial to research laboratory partners coming from 5 European countries. The outcome of this project will position Europe as a technology leader in the upcoming 5G market.

MUltiple-input multiple-output Silicon-based mm-wave Integrated Circuit radar (MUSIC)
SponsorHTSM
DurationStart 01-09-2015, End 01-09-2019
PhD studentDebashis Dhar
SupervisorsDusan Milosevic
Description

In the past decades phased-array radars with electronic beam steering have been developed for high-end professional applications, for example in multi-function radars for air defense. Due to the recent breakthroughs in the semiconductor technologies it now becomes feasible to develop cost-effective single-chip radars with on-chip antennas operating in the millimeter-wave region (60 GHz). We propose to develop a 3D microwave camera that is built up from several single-chip frequency-modulated (FMCW) radar chips, the total system having multiple-inputs and multiple-outputs (MIMO). Design of the single-chip radar is divided into three parts – Transceiver electronics, antenna and DSP. The following challenge regarding the transceiver will be addressed during the project.

 

- Synchronised transceiver electronics. An excellent synchronisation is required between the radar nodes for coherent beam steering and phase-noise reduction. We propose to use the low frequency (50 MHz) reference to synchronise the 60 GHz oscillators of the radar nodes. Another challenge is to maximize the dynamic range of the radar by generating up to 12 dBm output power per node.

WSN transceivers for Home and Building Automation
SponsorNXP
DurationStart 15-05-2015, End 15-05-2019
PhD studentDebasish Mitra
SupervisorLucien Breems
Description

The aim of the project is to explore the possibilities of designing a reconfigurable transceiver capable of operating in different communication standards.

In the present scenario of wireless communication, with the popular 2.4 GHz spectrum being overpopulated, emergence of new communication standard is imminent. With multiple communication standards, it makes sense to design a single configurable transceiver capable of operating at different frequencies of operation adhering to the corresponding standards of communication. The frequency range of interest is from few hundred MHz to 5GHz of the ISM band. The power consumption of the transceiver will be minimal in the lines of BLE ICs. Apart from power being one of the main constraint, this project will also try to optimize design criteria for minimal noise figure and nonlinearity. The project will involve analysis and comparison of different state of the art transceiver topologies and identifying different factors contributing to each of the above mentioned parameters of interests.

BROWSE
SponsorERC Advanced Grant
DurationStart 15-02-2014, End 14-02-2018
PhD studentBindi Wang
SupervisorDusan Milosevic
DescriptionThis study is part of a joint research project: Beam-steered Reconfigurable Optical-wireless System (BROWSE), which combines a free-space optical link with a mm-wave radio link to provide very high user data rates in house and office environments. The project aims to investigate advanced upstream radio techniques for high-speed wireless communication and localization systems. The radio section of the entire system contains a number of challenges concerning the system architecture of the phased-array transceiver at mm-wave frequencies and the circuit design of the key building blocks of the transceiver.
A fiber to RF-FREEspace multiBEAM converter (FREEBEAM)
SponsorSTW
DurationStart 18-11-2013, End 17-11-2017
PhD studentZhe Chen
SupervisorDusan Milosevic
DescriptionIn the past decades electronic phased-array antennas have become an accepted technology in professional applications, such as long-range and multi-function radars. However, there are some severe limitations (e.g. cost, complexity, bandwidth limitation, power consumption) for using this technology in other application domains or at higher frequencies. Currently, these applications typically use traditional reflector-based solutions (“dish-antenna”), limiting the functionality of such systems. We propose to develop a hybrid system using a focal-plane array which combines the benefits of phased-arrays and traditional reflector-based solutions. In addition, we will develop an all-optical interface to the focalplane-array, resulting in an ultra-wideband interface and a compact yet versatile solution enabling fast beam steering. The following scientific challenges will be addressed:
  • Multi-beam wideband focal-plane antenna-system. The system consists of a phased-array which is placed at the focal plane of a reflector and is capable of providing 4 simultaneous antenna beams over a 20 GHz bandwidth. For cost-reduction the antenna-elements will be integrated in the packaging technology of the electronic integrated circuits. A novel auto-calibration scheme will be developed to overcome environmental errors and to relax the initial specification of the various components.
  • Optical beamformer and interface. By using an optical beamformer a large operational bandwidth can be obtained. A novel “multi-color” optical concept will be applied for creating multiple independent beams each with a wide instantaneous bandwidth, allowing for remote processing.
  • Transmitter with high linearity and ultra low-noise receiver. This will enable multi-beam operation and will reduce the side-lobe level of the array system significantly. Key challenge is to develop new concepts in the microwave domain in low-cost Silicon IC technologies.

Completed projects

STARS/Ultra-low phase noise PLL
SponsorNXP/STARS Consortium
DurationStart 15-01-2014, End 14-01-2016
PDEng studentSong Ma
SupervisorDusan Milosevic
DescriptionThe focus of this project is to achieve phase noise, long-term phase stability and spectral purity of the distributed LO generation, which is sufficient for all applications of a phased array. Radar applications are among the most demanding ones, and up to now current on-chip tuneable oscillators have too high phase noise for typical radar applications. A typical LO for X-band radar has a phase noise performance of -115dBc/Hz at 10KHz offset, and -125dBc/Hz at 100kHz offset for 7 – 9GHz operation frequency.

Our proposed solution exploits the possibility to realize extreme low in-band phase noise using a phase-locked loop (PLL) with a very high reference clock, derived from the common LO, present in radar systems and having performance equal or better than the target specification. In combination with better than state-of-the-art silicon-based IC X-band oscillators, the resulting in-band phase noise can meet the demands. The solution is based on the cost-effective SiGe:C technology of NXP.
Microwave/mm-Wave Power Amplifiers in Silicon
SponsorNXP
DurationStart 01-02-2010, End 30-09-2014
PhD studentJaap Essing
SupervisorReza Mahmoudi / Domine Leenaerts
DescriptionThe goal of the study is to explore Power Amplifiers (PA) concepts that can operate in the microwave/mm-wave frequency range from 10-80 GHz. The focus will be implement these concepts on existing main-stream Silicon IC (Integrated Circuit) processes, like SiGe:C BiCMOS. PA’s will play a crucial rule in future emerging applications at microwave and mm-wave frequencies. Examples of new applications include VSAT (10-30 GHz), Car Radar (24, 77 GHz) and W-HDMI (60 GHz). High-performance and low-cost will be required in order to make these applications successfull in the consumer area. Currently, expensive and bulky discrete solutions are used based on GaAs. The design of the package will be an integral part of the study, since at microwave/mm-wave frequencies parasitic effects of the package become dominant. The focus should be on low-cost (plastic) packages. At higher frequencies (>40 GHz) integration of the antenna (or phased-array) within the IC and/or package will become relevant. This also needs to be taken into account.
Phased Array Transmitters for Ka-band Applications
SponsorNXP
DurationStart 01-10-2010, End 31-09-2014
PhD studentYu Pei
SupervisorDomine Leenaerts
Description

Phased array systems are entering Ka-band applications like VSAT satellite communication to replace fixed point antenna reception with focal place phased array reception. The latter concept allows correcting electronically for orbit drift of the satellite and easiness of user installation of the dish. The electronic correction is done by so-called beam steering, whereby several antenna signals are received or transmitted with different time delays. For VSAT a realistic focal plane consists out of 7x4 or 15x4 antennas and hence an equal amount of RF radios.

VSAT operates in the 30GHz frequency band and realizing an integrated phased array radio solution in silicon technology is the main objective of this project. Choice of technology is NXP’s in-house dedicated RF GEN8 SiGe:C BiCMOS process. The project co-operates with the EM group where the antennas are developed.

Broadband phased array system at 30GHz
SponsorNXP
DurationStart 18-10-2010, End 17-10-2014
PhD studentQian Ma
SupervisorReza Mahmoudi / Domine Leenaerts
DescriptionDesign methods for achieving reliable and robust performance of building blocks at the upper-frequency boundary of available technologies. The focus would be at those blocks operating at the highest signal frequencies in the transceiver: LNAs, Mixers, VCO/prescalers and PAs.
The blocks will have configuration inputs to tune them to maximum performance over temperature, supply, process spread, as well as detectors and digital control to allow automatic tuning through the configuration inputs.
STARS/Ultra-low phase noise PLL
SponsorNXP/STARS Consortium
DurationStart 03-06-2013, End 03-06-2015
PDEng studentXiangrong Zhang
SupervisorDusan Milosevic
DescriptionThe focus of this project is to achieve phase noise, long-term phase stability and spectral purity of the distributed LO generation, which is sufficient for all applications of a phased array. Radar applications are among the most demanding ones, and up to now current on-chip tuneable oscillators have too high phase noise for typical radar applications. A typical LO for X-band radar has a phase noise performance of -115dBc/Hz at 10KHz offset, and -125dBc/Hz at 100kHz offset for 7 – 9GHz operation frequency.

Our proposed solution exploits the possibility to realize extreme low in-band phase noise using a phase-locked loop (PLL) with a very high reference clock, derived from the common LO, present in radar systems and having performance equal or better than the target specification. In combination with better than state-of-the-art silicon-based IC X-band oscillators, the resulting in-band phase noise can meet the demands. The solution is based on the cost-effective SiGe:C technology of NXP.
Interference Suppression Techniques for Millimeter-Wave Integrated Front-Ends
SponsorCatrene project: RF2THz , EU-IAPP: PAR4CR
DurationStart 18-10-2010, End 18-10-2014
PhD studentChuang Lu
SupervisorMarion Matters - Kammerer
DescriptionIn modern communication systems, interference between multiple users as well as cross-talk between transmit and receive chains is a key performance limiting factor.The goal of this project is to explore methods to reduce interference effects in communication systems in the millimeter wave frequency range. In a first phase of this project, spatial interference suppression with antenna arrays is studied. Genetic algorithms are developed to selectively reduce the antenna gain in specific directions. As a next step CMOS integrated phase shifters are developed. In the second phase of this project, self interference between Tx and Rx chains is studied on the example of a satellite communication system. Specific on-chip interference suppression techniques are developed to effectively reduce the Tx/Rx leakage.