A cryogenic 160-GHz MMIC heterodyne receiver module has demonstrated a system noise temperature of 100 K or less at 166 GHz. This module builds upon work previously described in “Development of a 150-GHz MMIC Module Prototype for Large-Scale CMB Radiation” (NPO-47664), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 35, No. 8 (August 2011), p. 27. In the original module, the local oscillator signal was saturating the MMIC low-noise amplifiers (LNAs) with power. In order to suppress the local oscillator signal from reaching the MMIC LNAs, the W-band (75–110 GHz) signal had to be filtered out before reaching 140–170 GHz. A bandpass filter was developed to cover 120–170 GHz, using microstrip parallelcoupled lines to achieve the desired filter bandwidth, and ensure that the unwanted W-band local oscillator signal would be sufficiently suppressed.

With the new bandpass filter, the entire receiver can work over the 140–180-GHz band, with a minimum system noise temperature of 460 K at 166 GHz. The module was tested cryogenically at 20 K ambient temperature, and it was found that the receiver had a noise temperature of 100 K over an 8-GHz bandwidth.

The receiver module now includes a microstrip bandpass filter, which was designed to have a 3-dB bandwidth of approximately 120–170 GHz. The filter was fabricated on a 3-mil-thick alumina substrate. The filter design was based on a W-band filter design made at JPL and used in the QUIET (Q/U Imaging ExperimenT) radiometer modules. The W-band filter was scaled for a new center frequency of 150 GHz, and the microstrip segments were changed accordingly. Also, to decrease the bandwidth of the resulting scaled design, the center gaps between the microstrip lines were increased (by four micrometers in length) compared to the gaps near the edges. The use of the 150-GHz bandpass filter has enabled the receiver module to function well at room temperature. The system noise temperature was measured to be less than 600 K (at room temperature) from 154 to 168 GHz. Additionally, the use of a W-band isolator between the receiver module and the local oscillator source also improved the noise temperature substantially. This may be because the mixer was presented with a better impedance match with the use of the isolator.

Cryogenic testing indicates a system noise temperature of 100 K or less at 166 GHz. Prior tests of the MMIC amplifiers alone have resulted in a system noise temperature of 65–70 K in the same frequency range (≈160 GHz) when cooled to an ambient temperature of 20 K. While other detector systems may be slightly more sensitive (such as SIS mixers), they require more cooling (to 4 K ambient) and are not as easily scalable to build a large array, due to the need for large magnets and other equipment.

When cooled to 20 K, this receiver module achieves approximately 100 K system noise temperature, which is slightly higher than single-amplifier module results obtained at JPL (65–70 K when an amplifier is corrected for back-end noise contributions). If this performance can be realized in practice, and a scalable array can be produced, the impact on cosmic microwave background experiments, astronomical and Earth spectroscopy, interferometry, and radio astronomy in general will be dramatic.

This work was done by Lorene A. Samoska, Mary M. Soria, Heather R. Owen, Douglas E. Dawson, Pekka P. Kangaslahti, and Todd C. Gaier of Caltech, and Patricia Voll, Judy Lau, Matt Sieth, and Sarah Church of Stanford University for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47873

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Cryogenic 160-GHz MMIC Heterodyne Receiver Module

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This article first appeared in the December, 2011 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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