The current generation of submillimeter- wave instruments is relatively massand power-hungry. The receiver front ends (RFEs) of a submillimeter instrument form the heart of the instrument, and any mass reduction achieved in this subsystem is propagated through the instrument. In the current implementation, the RFE consists of different blocks for the mixer and LO circuits. The motivation for this work is to reduce the mass of the RFE by integrating the mixer and LO circuits in one waveguide block.

The mixer and its associated LO chips will all be packaged in a single waveguide package. This will reduce the mass of the RFE and also provide a number of other advantages. By bringing the mixer and LO circuits close together, losses in the waveguide will be reduced. Moreover, the compact nature of the block will allow for better thermal control of the block, which is important in order to reduce gain fluctuations.

A single waveguide block with a 600- GHz RFE functionality (based on a subharmonically pumped Schottky diode pair) has been demonstrated. The block is about 3×3×3 cm3. The block combines the mixer and multiplier chip in a single package. 3D electromagnetic simulations were carried out to design the waveguide circuit around the mixer and multiplier chip. The circuit is optimized to provide maximum output power and maximum bandwidth.

An integrated submillimeter front end featuring a 520–600-GHz sub-harmonic mixer and a 260–300-GHz frequency tripler in a single cavity was tested. Both devices used GaAs MMIC membrane planar Schottky diode technology. The sub-harmonic mixer/tripler circuit has been tested using conventional metal-machined blocks. Measurement results on the metal block give best DSB (double sideband) mixer noise temperature of 2,360 K and conversion losses of 7.7 dB at 520 GHz. The LO input power required to pump the integrated tripler/sub-harmonic mixer is between 30 and 50 mW.

This work was done by Imran Mehdi, Goutam Chattopadhyay, Erich T. Schlecht, Robert H. Lin, Seth Sin, Alejandro Peralta, Choonsup Lee, John J. Gill, Samuel Gulkis, and Bertrand C. Thomas of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. NPO-47902

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

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

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