CMOS transmitter taps into the 300 GHz band

Monday, 04 March, 2024

CMOS transmitter taps into the 300 GHz band

Japanese scientists have developed a phased-array transmitter that overcomes several common problems of CMOS technology in the 300 GHz band, with its impressive area efficiency, low power consumption and high data rate highlighting its potential for several applications.

At present, most frequencies above the 250 GHz mark remain unallocated. Accordingly, many researchers are developing 300 GHz transmitters/receivers to capitalise on the low atmospheric absorption at these frequencies, as well as the potential for extremely high data rates that comes with it. However, high-frequency electromagnetic waves become weaker at a fast pace when travelling through free space. To combat this problem, transmitters must achieve a large effective radiated power.

While some interesting solutions have been proposed, it is challenging for a 300 GHz-band transmitter manufactured via conventional CMOS processes to simultaneously realise high output power and small chip size. Now, a research team led by Professor Kenichi Okada from the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and NTT Corporation has developed a 300 GHz-band transmitter that solves these issues through several key innovations, as outlined at this year’s IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco.

The proposed solution is a phased-array transmitter composed of 64 radiating elements which are arranged in 16 integrated circuits with four antennas each. Since the elements are arranged in three dimensions by stacking printed circuit boards (PCBs), the transmitter supports 2D beam steering. As a result, the transmitted power can be aimed both vertically and horizontally, allowing for fast beam steering and tracking receivers efficiently.

The researchers used Vivaldi antennas, which can be implemented directly on-chip and have a suitable shape and emission profile for high frequencies. Another feature of the proposed transmitter is its power amplifier (PA)-last architecture. By placing the amplification stage before the antennas, the system only needs to amplify signals that have already been conditioned and processed. This leads to higher efficiency and better amplifier performance.

The researchers also addressed some common problems that arise with conventional transistor layouts in CMOS processes, such as high gate resistance and large parasitic capacitances. They optimised their layout by adding drain paths and vias and by altering the geometry and element placing between metal layers.

“Compared to the standard transistor layout, the parasitic resistance and capacitances in the proposed transistor layout are all mitigated,” Okada said. “In turn, the transistor-gain corner frequency, which is the point where the transistor’s amplification starts to decrease at higher frequencies, was increased from 250 to 300 GHz.”

The researchers also designed and implemented a multi-stage 300 GHz power amplifier to be used with each antenna. According to Okada, excellent impedance matching between stages enabled the amplifiers to demonstrate outstanding performance.

“The proposed power amplifiers achieved a gain higher than 20 dB from 237 to 267 GHz, with a sharp cut-off frequency to suppress out-of-band undesired signals,” he said. The proposed amplifier also achieved a noise figure of 15 dB, which was evaluated by the noise measurement system in the 300 GHz band.

The proposed transmitter was tested through simulations and experiments and obtained promising results, achieving a data rate of 108 Gbps in on-PCB probe measurements — substantially higher than other state-of-the-art 300 GHz-band transmitters, the researchers noted. The transmitter also displayed remarkable area efficiency compared to other CMOS-based designs alongside low power consumption, highlighting its potential for miniaturised and power-constrained applications. According to the researchers, notable use cases could include sixth-generation (6G) wireless communications, high-resolution terahertz sensors, and human body and cell monitoring.

Image caption: Chip die micrograph.

Related Articles

'Curving' light beams could enable terahertz comms

In the near future we'll need to transition to much higher communication frequencies than...

Antenna upgrade enables better sewer management

Amphenol Procom recently consulted a US company that produces devices that collect data relevant...

PTToC system enhances firefighter comms in Portugal

Inrico's PTToC solution has been designed to break down communication barriers between...

  • All content Copyright © 2024 Westwick-Farrow Pty Ltd