Solid-state frequency multipliers are used to produce tunable broadband sources at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths. The maximum power produced by a single chip is limited by the electrical breakdown of the semiconductor and by the thermal management properties of the chip. The solution is to split the drive power to a frequency tripler using waveguides to divide the power among four chips, then recombine the output power from the four chips back into a single waveguide.

To achieve this, a waveguide branch-line quadrature hybrid coupler splits a 100- GHz input signal into two paths with a 90° relative phase shift. These two paths are split again by a pair of waveguide Y-junctions. The signals from the four outputs of the Y-junctions are tripled in frequency using balanced Schottky diode frequency triplers before being recombined with another pair of Y-junctions. A final waveguide branch-line quadrature hybrid coupler completes the combination.

Using four chips instead of one enables using four-times higher power input, and produces a nearly four-fold power output as compared to using a single chip. The phase shifts introduced by the quadrature hybrid couplers provide isolation for the input and output waveguides, effectively eliminating standing waves between it and surrounding components. This is accomplished without introducing the high losses and expense of ferrite isolators.

A practical use of this technology is to drive local oscillators as was demonstrated around 300 GHz for a heterodyne spectrometer operating in the 2–3-THz band. Heterodyne spectroscopy in this frequency band is especially valuable for astrophysics due to the presence of a very large number of molecular spectral lines. Besides high-resolution radar and spectrographic screening applications, this technology could also be useful for laboratory spectroscopy.

This work was done by Robert H. Lin, John S. Ward, Peter J. Bruneau, and Imran Mehdi of Caltech; Bertrand C. Thomas of Oak Ridge Associated Universities; and Alain Maestrini of the Observatoire de Paris for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. For more information, download the Technical Support Package (free white paper) at under the Semiconductors & ICs category. NPO-46567

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Quad-Chip Double-Balanced Frequency Tripler

(reference NPO-46567) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the February, 2010 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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