A monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) that includes a high-electron-mobility transistor (HEMT) has been developed as a prototype of improved frequency doublers for generating signals at frequencies >100 GHz. Signal sources that operate in this frequency range are needed for a variety of applications, notably including general radiometry and, more specifically, radiometric remote sensing of the atmosphere.

Figure 1. This MMIC HEMT Frequency Doubler occupies a chip with dimensions of 1.1 mm by 1.2 mm by 50 µm.
Heretofore, it has been common practice to use passive (diode-based) frequency multipliers to obtain frequencies >100 GHz. Unfortunately, diode-based frequency multipliers are plagued by high DC power consumption and low conversion efficiency. Moreover, multiplier diodes are not easily integrated with such other multiplier-circuit components as amplifiers and oscillators. The goals of developing the present MMIC HEMT frequency doubler were (1) to utilize the HEMT as an amplifier to increase conversion efficiency (more precisely, to reduce conversion loss), thereby increasing the output power for a given DC power consumption or, equivalently, reducing the DC power consumption for a given output power; and (2) to provide for the integration of amplifier and oscillator components on the same chip.

Figure 2. The Output Power and Conversion Loss of the frequency doubler were measured as functions of frequency.
The MMIC frequency doubler (see Figure 1) contains an AlInAs/GaInAs/InP HEMT biased at pinch-off to make it function as a class-B amplifier (meaning that it conducts in half-cycle pulses). Grounded coplanar waveguides (GCPWs) are used as impedance-matching transmission lines. Air bridges are placed at discontinuities to suppress undesired slot electromagnetic modes. Another combination of GCPWs also serves both as a low-pass filter to suppress undesired oscillations at frequencies below 60 GHz and as a DC blocker. Large decoupling capacitors and epitaxial resistors are added in the drain and gate lines to suppress bias oscillations. At the output terminal, the fundamental frequency is suppressed by a quarter-wave open stub, which presents a short circuit at the fundamental frequency and an open circuit at the second harmonic.

At an input power of 7 mW, the output power and conversion loss at an output frequency of 164 GHz were found to be 5 dBm (≈3.2 mW) and 2 dB, respectively, with a 3-dB output-power bandwidth of 14 GHz. This is the best performance reported to date for an MMIC HEMT frequency doubler above 100 GHz.

This work was done by Lorene Samoska of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Vesna Radisic, Miro Micovic, Ming Hu, Paul Janke, Catherine Ngo, and Loi Nguyen of HRL Laboratories, LLC, and Matthew Morgan of Caltech. For further information, access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.techbriefs.com/tsp under the Computers/Electronics category.