Semiconductors & ICs

MMIC DHBT Common-Base Amplifier for 172 GHz

This single-transistor circuit performs comparably to a prior four-transistor circuit. Figure 1 shows a single-stage monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) power amplifier in which the gain element is a double-heterojunction bipolar transistor (DHBT) connected in common-base configuration. This amplifier, which has been demonstrated to function well at a frequency of 172 GHz, is part of a continuing effort to develop compact, efficient amplifiers for scientific instrumentation, wide-band communication systems, and radar systems that will operate at frequencies up to and beyond 180 GHz. The transistor is fabricated from a layered structure formed by molecularbeam epitaxy in the InP/lnGaAs material system. A highly doped InGaAs base layer and a collector layer are fabricated from the layered structure in a triple mesa process. The transistor includes two separate emitter fingers, each having dimensions of 0.8 by 12 µm. The common-base configuration was chosen for its high maximum stable gain in the frequency band of interest. The input-matching network is designed for high bandwidth. The output of the transistor is matched to a load line for maximum saturated output power under large-signal conditions, rather than being matched for maximum gain under small-signal conditions.

Posted in: Semiconductors & ICs, Briefs, TSP

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Submicrosecond Power-Switching Test Circuit

Switching time is ≤300 ns. A circuit that changes an electrical load in a switching time shorter than 0.3 microsecond has been devised. This circuit can be used in testing the regulation characteristics of power-supply circuits — especially switching power-converter circuits that are supposed to be able to provide acceptably high degrees of regulation in response to rapid load transients. The combination of this power-switching circuit and a known passive constant load could be an attractive alternative to a typical commercially available load-bank circuit that can be made to operate in nominal constant-voltage, constant-current, and constant-resistance modes. The switching provided by a typical commercial load-bank circuit in the constant-resistance mode is not fast enough for testing of regulation in response to load transients. Moreover, some test engineers do not trust the test results obtained when using commercial load-bank circuits because the dynamic responses of those circuits are, variously, partly unknown and/or excessively complex. In contrast, the combination of this circuit and a passive constant load offers both rapid switching and known (or at least better known) load dynamics.

Posted in: Semiconductors & ICs, Briefs

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Three-Function Logic Gate Controlled by Analog Voltage

A different logic function is selected by changing a single voltage. The figure is a schematic diagram of a complementary metal oxide/semiconductor (CMOS) electronic circuit that performs one of three different logic functions, depending on the level of an externally applied control voltage, Vsel • Specifically, the circuit acts as A NAND gate at Vsel=0.0V, A wire (the output equals one of the inputs) at Vsel=1.0V, or An AND gate at Vsel=-1.8V. [The nominal power-supply potential (VDD) and logic "1" potential of this circuit is 1.8V.]

Posted in: Semiconductors & ICs, Briefs, TSP

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Single-Chip T/R Module for 1.2 GHz

T/R modules can be made smaller and at lower cost. A single-chip CMOS-based (complementary- metal-oxide-semi- conductor- based) transmit/receive (T/R) module is being developed for L-band radar systems. Previous T/R module implementations required multiple chips employing different technologies (GaAs, Si, and others) combined with off-chip transmission lines and discrete components including circulators. The new design eliminates the bulky circulator, significantly reducing the size and mass of the T/R module. Compared to multi-chip designs, the single- chip CMOS can be implemented with lower cost. These innovations enable cost-effective realization of advanced phased array and synthetic aperture radar systems that require integration of thousands of T/R modules.

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Waveguide Power-Amplifier Module for 80 to 150 GHz

The amplifier can now be connected to other equipment more easily. A waveguide power-amplifier module capable of operating over the frequency range from 80 to 150 GHz has been constructed. The module comprises a previously reported power amplifier packaged in a waveguide housing that is compatible with WR-8 waveguides. (WR-8 is a standard waveguide size for the nominal frequency range from 90 to 140 GHz.) Because the amplifier in its unpackaged form was a single, fragile InP chip, it was necessary to use special probes to make electrical connections between the amplifier and test equipment in order to measure the power gain and other aspects of amplifier performance. In contrast, the waveguide poweramplifier module is robust and can be bolted to test equipment and to other electronic circuits with which the amplifier must be connected for normal operation. The amplifier in its unpackaged form was reported in “Power Amplifier With 9 to 13 dB of Gain from 65 to 146 GHz” (NPO-20880), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 25, No. 1 (January 2001), page 44.

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Analog Nonvolatile Computer Memory Circuits

Digital data would be stored in analog form in FFETs. In nonvolatile random-access memory (RAM) circuits of a proposed type, digital data would be stored in analog form in ferroelectric field-effect transistors (FFETs). This type of memory circuit would offer advantages over prior volatile and nonvolatile types: In a conventional complementary metal oxide/semiconductor static RAM, six transistors must be used to store one bit, and storage is volatile in that data are lost when power is turned off. In a conventional dynamic RAM, three transistors must be used to store one bit, and the stored bit must be refreshed every few milliseconds. In contrast, in a RAM according to the proposal, data would be retained when power was turned off, each memory cell would contain only two FFETs, and the cell could store multiple bits (the exact number of bits depending on the specific design).

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Circuit for Full Charging of Series Lithium-Ion Cells

Differences among cells would no longer prevent full charging. An advanced charger has been proposed for a battery that comprises several lithium-ion cells in series. The proposal is directed toward charging the cells in as nearly an optimum manner as possible despite unit-to-unit differences among the nominally identical cells.

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