Design of Baluns and Low Noise Amplifiers in Integrated Mixed-Signal Organic Substrates

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Govind, Vinu
Swaminathan, Madhavan
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The integration of mixed-signal systems has long been a problem in the semiconductor industry. CMOS System-on-Chip (SOC), the traditional means for integration, fails mixed-signal systems on two fronts; the lack of on-chip passives with high quality (Q) factors inhibits the design of completely integrated wireless circuits, and the noise coupling from digital to analog circuitry through the conductive silicon substrate degrades the performance of the analog circuits. Advancements in semiconductor packaging have resulted in a second option for integration, the System-On-Package (SOP) approach. Unlike SOC where the package exists just for the thermal and mechanical protection of the ICs, SOP provides for an increase in the functionality of the IC package by supporting multiple chips and embedded passives. However, integration at the package level also comes with its set of hurdles, with significant research required in areas like design of circuits using embedded passives and isolation of noise between analog and digital sub-systems. A novel multiband balun topology has been developed, providing concurrent operation at multiple frequency bands. The design of compact wideband baluns has been proposed as an extension of this theory. As proof-of-concept devices, both singleband and wideband baluns have been fabricated on Liquid Crystalline Polymer (LCP) based organic substrates. A novel passive-Q based optimization methodology has been developed for chip-package co-design of CMOS Low Noise Amplifiers (LNA). To implement these LNAs in a mixed-signal environment, a novel Electromagnetic Band Gap (EBG) based isolation scheme has also been employed. The key contributions of this work are thus the development of novel RF circuit topologies utilizing embedded passives, and an advancement in the understanding and suppression of signal coupling mechanisms in mixed-signal SOP-based systems. The former will result in compact and highly integrated solutions for RF front-ends, while the latter is expected to have a significant impact in the integration of these communication devices with high performance computing.
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