JPL has measured and calibrated a WR2.2 waveguide wafer probe from GGB Industries in order to allow for measurement of circuits in the 325–500 GHz range. Circuits were measured, and one of the circuits exhibited 10 dB of gain at 475 GHz.

The MMIC circuit was fabricated at Northrop Grumman Corp. (NGC) as part of a NASA Innovative Partnerships Program, using NGC’s 35-nm-gate-length InP HEMT process technology. The chip utilizes three stages of HEMT amplifiers, each having two gate fingers of 10 μm in width. The circuits use grounded coplanar waveguide topology on a 50-μm-thick substrate with through substrate vias. Broadband matching is achieved with coplanar waveguide transmission lines, on-chip capacitors, and open stubs. When tested with wafer probing, the chip exhibited 10 dB of gain at 475 GHz, with over 9 dB of gain from 445–490 GHz.

Low-noise amplifiers in the 400–500 GHz range are useful for astrophysics receivers and earth science remote sensing instruments. In particular, molecular lines in the 400–500 GHz range include the CO 4-3 line at 460 GHz, and the CI fine structure line at 492 GHz. Future astrophysics heterodyne instruments could make use of high-gain, low-noise amplifiers such as the one described here. In addition, earth science remote sensing instruments could also make use of low-noise receivers with MMIC amplifier front ends.

Present receiver technology typically employs mixers for frequency down-conversion in the 400–500 GHz band. Commercially available mixers have typical conversion loss in the range of 7–10 dB with noise figure of 1,000 K. A low-noise amplifier placed in front of such a mixer would have 10 dB of gain and lower noise figure, particularly if cooled to low temperature. Future work will involve measuring the noise figure of this amplifier.

This work was done by Lorene A. Samoska, King Man Fung, David M. Pukala, and Pekka P. Kangaslahti of Caltech; and Richard Lai and Linda Ferreira of Northrup Grumman Corp. for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47541


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On-Wafer Measurement of a Multi-Stage MMIC Amplifier With 10 dB of Gain at 475 GHz

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This article first appeared in the May, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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