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S. A. Maas Applied Wave Research, Inc.
1960 E. Grand Ave., Suite 530 El Segundo, California, 90245 USA firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract This paper describes the current state of the art in the design, analysis, and computer modeling of microwave and RF mixers. We show how modern computer analysis (CAD) tools, especially general-purpose harmonic-balance simulators and planar electromagnetic simulators, have improved both the quality of mixer designs and the efficiency of the design process. Simultaneously, new approaches to the design of baluns and passive structures have resulted in high-performance, broadband designs. As a result, mixer technology has reached a high level of maturity. Introduction Since the invention of the superheterodyne receiver by Edwin Armstrong in 1917, mixers have been essential parts of radio communication systems. Mixer design has traditionally been an approximate process, at best using special-purpose computer programs. The development of general-purpose harmonic-balance simulators and electromagnetic simulators, however, has improved the accuracy of the design process enormously, and it has even made the design of a wide variety of new balun structures possible. These have been particularly valuable in monolithic circuits. Mixers can be broadly categorized as active or passive. Passive mixers primarily use Schottky-barrier diodes, although a relatively new type of passive mixer, the FET resistive mixer , recently has become popular. FET resistive mixers use the resistive channel of a MESFET to provide low-distortion mixing, with approximately the same conversion loss as a diode mixer. Active mixers use either FET or bipolar devices. FETs (either MESFETs or HEMTs) are used for most microwave and RF applications where active mixers are employed; BJTs and occasionally HBTs are used most frequently as Gilbert multipliers  for modulation, phase detection, and similar purposes. The theory of both active and passive mixers has been well known for some time [3 - 8]. Mixer Types and Technologies Although single-device mixers occasionally are used, most practical mixers are balanced. Balanced mixers require baluns or hybrids, and these largely determine the bandwidth and
Often. in contrast. In this mixer. diode mixers generally do not. diode mixers are still widely used in microwave circuits. and attempts to “translate” . the resulting large size of the IF balun may be troublesome. wide bandwidth. In this paper. Thus. We consider these topics individually. Mixer Design The design of balanced mixers—passive or active—involves two fundamental tasks: (1) design of the baluns and passive matching circuits. Broadband diode mixers usually do not require more local-oscillator (LO) power than active mixers. not the diodes. balanced active mixers always require an IF hybrid or balun. Balun and Passive-Circuit Design The design of baluns for discrete-component mixers is very mature. most systems can tolerate a relatively noisy mixer. FETs. even in single-device circuits. so the diode mixer’s loss and noise are rarely a significant disadvantage. parallel-coupled strips mounted on a suspended substrate. we shall consider only balanced mixers. Although properly designed active mixers can achieve somewhat lower noise figures than diode mixers. the baluns consist of simple. while active mixers usually can achieve at least a few dB of gain. When the IF frequency is low. so active FET mixers often are easier to integrate. the lower strip (which is connected to the ground surface of the housing) is tapered to improve the balun’s performance. Diode mixers usually have 5-8 dB conversion loss. Active mixers have a few important advantages over diode mixers besides their superior gain and noise figure. causing difficulties in achieving flat. Dual-gate FET mixers offer inherent LO-RF isolation. have a high-Q gate-input impedance. although noise figure and gain usually are slightly worse than in single-gate FET mixers. while balanced diode mixers largely do not. and (2) design and analysis of the complete mixer. High-quality diodes are often difficult to produce in FET monolithic circuit technologies. even balanced active mixers require matching and filtering circuits. Diodes in such technologies usually consist of a FET gate-to-channel junction. Finally. Such baluns are clearly impractical in monolithic circuits. especially in monolithic circuits. Finally. In spite of the maturity of FET circuits.overall performance of the mixer. Figure 1 shows a common structure. but narrowband active mixers may have an LO-power advantage. which usually is a very poor diode. The bandwidths of diode mixers are limited primarily by the bandwidths of the baluns. and as such has very wide bandwidth. Diode mixers have an important advantage over FETs and bipolar devices: a Schottky-barrier diode is inherently a resistive device. they are the subject of considerable research interest.
The fundamental problem is in the extra capacitance between the monolithic circuit’s microstrips and ground. low-dielectric-constant substrate is very thin (typically 125-250 µm) and is mounted in a housing or carrier. this capacitance is unavoidably large. the Marchand balun is intrinsically capable of good performance over a Input λ/2 Output Figure 2. We have centered on the Marchand balun as a building block for broadband. the imbalance is severe. and the even-mode impedance is made as great as possible. Unless special efforts are made to reduce it. The composite. An open area under the substrate is essential. A common type of commercial. It allows an even mode to exist on the balun. suspended-substrate baluns into planar monolithic form have been largely unsuccessful.RF IF Blocking Capacitors Diode “Quad” LO IF IF Return Figure 1. Although its even-mode characteristic impedance is no higher than that of other structures. which reduces port-to-port isolation. . Figure 2 shows a planar Marchand balun. Practical approaches to the design of broadband monolithic baluns are still scarce. its performance tolerates low even-mode impedance much better. A planar Marchand balun consists of two quarter-wavelength coupled-line sections. The odd-mode characteristic impedance is chosen so that the structure acts as a transformer between the source and load. Because the substrate is thin (usually 100 µm) and has a high dielectric constant (12. Clearly. and Figure 3 shows its calculated performance. suspended-substrate diode mixer. The even mode unbalances the mixer and allows input-to-output coupling.9). planar monolithic mixers.
We have experimented extensively with Marchand baluns and Marchand-like balun structures. Unfortunately. Inevitably we find that a three-strip structure gives the best trade-off between odd-mode and even-mode impedances. In less idealized cases. Z0e = 180Ω. The even. we find that an octave bandwidth. such asymmetrical coupled-line structures are not simple to analyze. is practically achievable. A coupled-line structure having arbitrary line widths and spacings can be analyzed in this manner. or slightly greater. the modal phase velocities. where length information is introduced and a Y matrix for the coupledline structure is created. The coupled-line structure’s admittance matrix can be determined from its length. Our approach to analysis of these structures is as follows. multioctave band. causing the balance to be (theoretically) perfect. its modal matrices. The circuit can then be analyzed directly in the linear-circuit simulator or as part of a complete mixer by harmonic-balance simulation. The output terminals are each treated as separate ports. momentmethod electromagnetic simulator called LINPAR  to determine the current and voltage modes on the coupled-line structure used in the balun.Figure 3. and ZL = 60Ω.and odd-mode phase velocities are equal. Performance of a somewhat idealized Marchand balun with Z0o = 25Ω. The vector of input current I0 of a set of coupled lines with a short-circuited output is –1 V I 0 = S I ( 1 + Γ2 L ) ( 1 – Γ2 L ) –1 S V 0 (1) . We use a quasistatic. We then import these data into our circuit simulator.
Mixer Circuit Analysis Harmonic-balance analysis is the method of choice for designing RF and microwave mixers. higher. The method has been extended.where V0 is the excitation vector. so the length can be optimized within the circuit simulator. only a single excitation tone is used. L V L = (4) The rest of the matrix can be filled in from the obvious symmetries. and probably. One is to select the frequencies in the . SPICE ) may also be acceptable in some cases. Time-domain analysis (for example. since non-TEM dispersion effects are generally insignificant in monolithic baluns at frequencies below ~50 GHz. exp ( j γ 1 L ) ΓL = 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 (3) exp ( j γ2 L ) 0 … 0 0 exp ( j γn L ) where γn are the propagation constants of each mode and L is the length of the coupledline structure. Γ2L is a similar matrix having 2L instead of L. however. L V 0 Y L. Second. 0 Y L. 1 is the identity matrix. A disadvantage of this method is the quasistatic nature of the electromagnetic analysis. and ΓL is the diagonal matrix. it is much faster. and more variations of the coupled-line geometry can be studied in limited time. These expressions realize the first column of the admittance matrix. Several methods can be used to improve the efficiency of mixer analysis by multitone harmonic balance. in many cases. This is less of a difficulty than one might initially imagine. First. the length of the structure is not specified until the circuit analysis is performed. This process has two important advantages compared to a general-purpose planar electromagnetic simulator using spectral-domain moment methods or other full-wave approaches. The output current vector IL is –1 V I L = – 2 SI Γ L ( 1 – Γ 2 L ) – 1 S V 0 (2) where SI is the modal current matrix. 0 Y 0. In “classical” harmonic-balance analysis . SV is the modal voltage matrix. These methods increase the number of frequency components in the analysis and slow the analysis significantly. I0 IL Y 0. to allow two or more noncommensurate excitation frequencies. This results in a very efficient design process.
and excellent intermodulation performance from 26-40 GHz. Another is to use conversion-matrix analysis. In this method. the mixer is first analyzed under LO excitation alone. most Figure 4. and the mixer’s performance is recalculated. and baluns are replaced by transformers. because the computation time required for the conversion-matrix analysis is usually insignificant. it needs little or no numerical optimization. and maintained throughout the process. The circuit is again optimized. Numerical optimization of mixer designs is possible in most harmonic-balance simulators. reoptimized. . high isolation. using only lumped or simple distributed components. This process is very efficient.analysis so they include only the LO harmonics and sidebands around each harmonic. and the harmonic-balance analysis is single-tone. Design Examples Figure 4 shows a planar star mixer using three-strip Marchand baluns in a coplanarwaveguide (CPW) structure. We have designed a large number of mixers of this type. the ideal elements are replaced one-by-one with real structures. treating the RF as a small deviation on the LO voltage. This mixer exhibits low conversion loss. or at least reduces considerably the amount needed. but the time required for such optimization is usually prohibitive. A more intelligent design process usually obviates such optimization. A planar star mixer uses three-strip Marchand baluns in a CPW-like configuration. and we design simple matching networks. We begin with an idealized circuit. We then determine input and optimum load impedances. follows. This reduces the size of the frequency set considerably. usually lumpedelement. Conversion-matrix analysis is applicable to both active and passive mixers. and thereby improves efficiency. The IF frequency range is DC12 GHz. When the finished circuit emerges. and then a noniterative calculation.
The RF balun excites a curved. and a second “horseshoe” balun for IF extraction and further even-mode rejection. the LO-to-IF and RFto-IF isolations are only modest. equally spaced strips. The RF and LO baluns are multistrip. This section has two purposes: first. One of the quarter-wave sections of each balun is the usual three-strip structure. it provides an approximate virtual-ground point for an IF connection. while the other has six equal-width. approximately 13 dB. The mixer shown in the figure operates over a 26-40 GHz RF and LO band and a DC-12 GHz IF band. which improves the bandwidth considerably. it improves the balun’s balance. Second. asymmetrical Marchands. It consists of Marchand baluns for both the RF and LO. Figure 5 shows a rather unusual mixer that makes extensive use of coupled-line baluns. . and lower conversion loss. always a difficulty in microwave ring mixer designs.operating over octave bandwidths between 12 and 45 GHz. probably the best indication of the balun’s effectiveness. subsequent mixers have exhibited 18 GHz IF bandwidth. with a 12-GHz IF. Figure 5. coupled-line section which we have come to call the horseshoe. This is the first mixer of this type that we developed. The large number of strips gives the section a very low odd-mode impedance. These mixers typically exhibit input thirdorder intercept points above 20 dB. The RF-to-LO isolation. This planar ring-diode mixer operates from 18 to 40 GHz. Subsequent designs used a stub in the IF connection to improve the rejection. Conversion loss is 7 to 9 dB over this frequency range. Unfortunately. 20 to 40 GHz RF and LO bandwidth. is greater than 40 dB. This mixer exhibits low conversion loss (~7 dB) and high RF-LO isolation (~35 dB) over an 18-40 GHz band.
. D. Microwave Mixers. “Nonlinear. S. Especially. 6. The result is high-performance. MA 1971. vol. S. Djordjevic et al.  SPICE3. Electronics Research Laboratory. p. 1984. “A Precise Four-Quadrant Multiplier with Subnanosecond Response. April. Berkeley. p. Maas. A. 1976. without which broadband monolithic balanced mixers would be impossible. Norwood. 425.” IEEE Trans. Artech House.. Masse’.” IEEE Trans. p. Pucel. S. CA USA 94720. A.” IEEE J. however. 351. Norwood. R. “A GaAs MESFET Mixer with Very Low Intermodulation. Cambridge. MTT-32. 1974. vol.Conclusions The use of modern harmonic-balance simulators and electromagnetic analysis software has been instrumental in the design of modern mixers. .. SC-3. and R. MTT-24. Microwave Theory Tech. Maas. Gilbert.. 1987.0. no. Nonlinear Microwave Circuits. no.” IEEE Trans. Theory of Resistive Mixers. vol. MA. LINPAR for Windows. 270. Maas. Linear Analysis and Computer-Aided Design of Resistive Mixers. Dec. vol. ver. 1988. Saleh..” IEEE Trans. June. 4. Artech House. 365. MTT-22. low-cost circuits operating into the millimeter-wave region. S. References          S. MIT Press. MA 1999. Egami. Microwave Theory Tech . University of California. 1992. “Theory and Analysis of GaAs MESFET Mixers. 1968. 2. M.. R. Second Edition. Norwood. it has allowed the development of new types of balun structures. no. Solid-State Circuits. Artech House. MTT-35. B. 1402. “Performance of GaAs MESFET Mixers at X Band. 10. Bera. must be adjusted to make most efficient use of these technologies. Design techniques. MTT. Microwave Theory Tech. MA. A. p. vol. p. A. Maas. Oct.
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