Modelling and design of Low Noise Amplifiers using strained InGaAs/InAlAs/InP pHEMT for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) application

  • Norhawati Ahmad

Student thesis: Phd


The largest 21st century radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is now being planned, and the first phase of construction is estimated to commence in the year 2016. Phased array technology, the key feature of the SKA, requires the use of a tremendous number of receivers, estimated at approximately 37 million. Therefore, in the context of this project, the Low Noise Amplifier (LNA) located at the front end of the receiver chain remains the critical block. The demanding specifications in terms of bandwidth, low power consumption, low cost and low noise characteristics make the LNA topologies and their design methodologies one of the most challenging tasks for the realisation of the SKA. The LNA design is a compromise between the topology selection, wideband matching for a low noise figure, low power consumption and linearity. Considering these critical issues, this thesis describes the procedure for designing a monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) LNA for operation in the mid frequency band (400 MHz to 1.4 GHz) of the SKA. The main focus of this work is to investigate the potential of MMIC LNA designs based on a novel InGaAs/InAlAs/InP pHEMT developed for 1 µm gate length transistors, fabricated at The University of Manchester. An accurate technique for the extraction of empirical linear and nonlinear models for the fabricated active devices has been developed. In addition to the linear and nonlinear model of the transistors, precise models for passive devices have also been obtained and incorporated in the design of the amplifiers. The models show excellent agreement between measured and modelled DC and RF data. These models have been used in designing single, double and differential stage MMIC LNAs. The LNAs were designed for a 50 Ω input and output impedance. The excellent fits between the measured and modelled S-parameters for single and double stage single-ended LNAs reflects the accurate models that have been developed. The single stage LNA achieved a gain ranging from 9 to 13 dB over the band of operation. The gain was increased between 27 dB and 36 dB for the double stage and differential LNA designs. The measured noise figures obtained were higher by ~0.3 to ~0.8 dB when compared to the simulated figures. This is due to several factors which are discussed in this thesis. The single stage design consumes only a third of the power (47 mW) of that required for the double stage design, when driven from a 3 V supply. All designs were unconditionally stable. The chip sizes of the fabricated MMIC LNAs were 1.5 x 1.5 mm2 and 1.6 x 2.5 mm2 for the single and double stage designs respectively. Significantly, a series of differential input to single-ended output LNAs became of interest for use in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), as it utilises differential output antennas in some of its configurations. The single-ended output is preferable for interfacing to the subsequent stages in the analogue chain. A noise figure of less than 0.9 dB with a power consumption of 180 mW is expected for these designs.
Date of Award1 Aug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMohamed Missous (Supervisor)


  • Coplanar Waveguide (CPW)
  • Low Noise Amplifier (LNA)
  • Pseudomorphic High Electron Mobility Transistor (pHEMT)
  • Square Kilometre Array (SKA)
  • Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit (MMIC)

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