Characterization and Design of Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) Based Multilayer RF Components and Packages

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Thompson, Dane C.
Papapolymerou, John
Tentzeris, Emmanouil M.
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This thesis discusses the investigation and utilization of a new promising thin-film material, liquid crystal polymer (LCP), for microwave and millimeter-wave (mm-wave [>30 GHz]) components and packages. The contribution of this research is in the determination of LCP's electrical and mechanical properties as they pertain to use in radio frequency (RF) systems up to mm-wave frequencies, and in evaluating LCP as a low-cost substrate and packaging material alternative to the hermetic materials traditionally desired for microwave circuits at frequencies above a few gigahertz (GHz). A study of LCP's mm-wave material properties was performed. Resonant circuit structures were designed to find the dielectric constant and loss tangent from 2-110 GHz under both ambient and elevated temperature conditions. Several unique processes were developed for the realization of novel multilayer LCP-based RF circuits. These processes include thermocompression bonding with tight temperature control (within a few degrees Celsius), precise multilayer alignment and patterning, and LCP laser processing with three different types of lasers. A proof-of-concept design that resulted from this research was a dual-frequency dual-polarization antenna array operating at 14 and 35 GHz. Device characterization such as mechanical flexibility testing of antennas and seal testing of packages were also performed. A low-loss interconnect was developed for laser-machined system-level thin-film LCP packages. These packages were designed for and measured with both RF micro-electromechanical (MEM) switches and monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs). These research findings have shown LCP to be a material with uniquely attractive properties/capabilities for vertically integrated, compact multilayer LCP circuits and modules.
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