High Frequency VCO Design and Schematics
This note will review the process by which VCO (Voltage Controlled Oscillator) designers choosetheir oscillator’s topology and devices based on performance requirements, components types and DCpower requirements.Basic oscillator design specifications often require a given output power into a specified load at thedesign frequency. The drive level and bias current set the fundamental output current and the oscillationfrequency is set by the resonator components.Transistor selection of the transistor should consider noise, frequency, and power requirements.Based on the particular device, the design may account for parasitics of the device affecting resonatorcomponents as well as nonlinear performance specifications.All the VCO schematics presented below were practical build using the Infineon SiGe transistor BFP420,and any of them can be re-tuned for different frequency ranges changing varicaps and LC tank values.
The VCO must exhibit a low
in order to meet the Sensitivity, Adjacent Channel andBlocking requirements. In digital modulation scheme the VCO’s Phase Noise affects the Bit ErrorRate requirements. High
(change of the oscillation frequency with supply voltage) cancause Phase Noise degradation due to increased sensitivity to the power supply noise.Phase Noise varies typically by 3dB with temperature, in the –55ºC to +85ºC range.
at the output is necessarily to isolate the VCO from any output load variations (
) andto provide the required output power. Meeting simultaneously the output power and load pullspecification directly with a stand-alone oscillator would be difficult. However, this buffer amplifierrequires a higher supply current. Alternative would include to use at the output circulators, isolatorsor passive attenuators.
is usually measured into a 50 ohm load. Output power requirements specified indBm, and tolerances vs tuning frequency in ± dB.
is the slope of the frequency to voltage tuning characteristic at any point and is thesame as modulation sensitivity. The slope could be positive or negative. For a positive slope, theoutput frequency. increases as the tuning voltage increases. Similarly for a negative slope, the outputfrequency decreases as the tuning voltage increases
monotonic tuning characteristic
means that the frequency is single valued at any tuning voltageand that the slope has the same sign across the tuning range.
as a function of tuning voltage is a measure of
. For any givenapplication, have to specify the minimum and maximum of the tuning sensitivity. In the case of aVCO, the frequency coverage is rather restricted since the influence of the feedback network is smallcompared to the active device itself. Conventional oscillator designs (with a LC circuit ortransmission-line equivalent coupled to a negative-resistance active device will only provide arestricted frequency coverage and poor stability). A negative resistance can easily be obtained frommost microwave transistors when considering chip and package parasitics.
Tuning flatness -
As the VCO frequency range is increased, the difficulty to achieve a flat outputpower is increased. Adding an output filter to suppress harmonics may in some
cases degrade poweroutput flatness.
The drive level should consider the trade-off between harmonic content, oscillator stability, andnoise.