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Proceedings of the 1st European Microwave Integrated Circuits Conference

Capabilities of a 10 GHz MEMS based VCO
A. Coustou, D. Dubuc, K. Grenier, E. Fourn, O. Llopis, & R. Plana
LAAS-CNRS, Université de Toulouse, 7 Av du Colonel Roche 31077 Toulouse, France, +33 561336956 e-mail: acoustou@laas.fr
Abstract—This paper report on the investigation of a MEMS based Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO) at 10 GHz. We report that the MEMS IC concept turns out to a 8 dB phase noise improvement and 4 dB output power improvement at 10 GHz, compared to the MMIC technology using P+/Nwell varactors. Measurements have shown an improvement of resonator's quality factor of MEMS technology compared to MMIC technology. It is proposed a new design that takes into account these behaviors. The new MEMS based VCO is under construction and it should feature -87dBc/Hz @ 10 GHz offset with 4 dBm output power. INTRODUCTION

I. TECHNOLOGY The technology used in this work is a 0.35 μm MMIC BiCMOS SiGe technology developed by STMicroelectronics. HBT transistors exhibit a cut-off frequency (FT) and a oscillation frequency (FMAX ) in the range of 45 GHz and 60 GHz respectively. This technology has been used to design the active part of the VCO circuits. The technology exhibits five metal levels for interconnects and passive devices. It features inductors, exhibiting a quality factor in the range of 12, at a frequency of 10 GHz. The quality factor of P+/Nwell varactors lies in the range of 15 to 18, at a frequency of 10 GHz. The MEMS capacitive resonator technology that is used has been developed and processed at LAAS-CNRS. The technology used a BCB layer (thickness of 20 μm) on a high resistive silicon substrate (2 kΩ.cm) and is compatible with an above IC integration. The gold moveable membrane has been optimized to minimize the residual deformation and ensure a 3-μm height. The capacitive resonator is achieved through a PECVD Si3N4 featuring 0,375μm thickness to minimize the electrical stress on the dielectric and to optimize the reliability behavior [5] (i.e. dielectric charging). The next section will address the different architectures that have been developed to investigate the potentialities of RF MEMS for microwave VCO. II. DESIGN AND LAYOUT CONSIDERATIONS As previously described, in order to have a relevant comparison, we have developed two identical negative resistance through a SiGe BiCMOS MMIC technology [6]. For the full monolithic architecture, the VCO has been completed using a variable LC Tank composed of spiral inductor and a P+/Nwell varactor available with the ST microelectronics design kit. Concerning the MEMS based architecture, the active device has been kept identical to the previous one when the MEMS resonator has been realized through two MEMS bridges acting as variable capacitors above a Coplanar Wave Guide (CPW) in order to consider in the future a flip chip assembling or an above IC assembling. To demonstrate the MEMS-IC advantage in term of RF performance, we have assembled the variable MEMS resonator with the active SiGe device through bonding wires. The top view of active part of the MEMS based VCO is reported on figure 1.

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ireless circuits are being introduced in many applications devoted to personal communications, industrial and scientific field, health, sports, domotic, automotive. The incredibly increase of these applications turns out to an overcrowded frequency spectrum that motivates research to improve the performance of the RF and microwave modules in term of sensitivity, adaptability, reconfigurability, power consumption, density integration, weight, reliability and cost. MEMS technology can provide such improvement of RF circuits due to its low RF distortion and power losses properties and their very attractive capabilities in term of reconfigurability and flexibility [1], [2], [3]. It is understood that the future architecture will involve MEMS and Integrated Circuit (IC) and it is important to better investigate the behavior and benefits expected from this MEMS IC concept. This paper proposes to investigate the use of MEMS technology within a low phase noise 10 GHz Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO). The architecture that is discussed in this paper deals with the integration of an RF MEMS varactor with a SiGe negative resistance and its comparison with a conventional SiGe VCO at 10 GHz, demonstrating the benefit of the MEMS IC concept [4]. This paper is organized into five sections. In section II, we will briefly address the main features of the technologies that have been used. Section III, we will present the design methodology that has been implemented for the VCO. Section IV will present and discuss the measurements that have been performed on the two VCO architectures (i.e. the conventional MMIC SiGe VCO and the MEMS IC version). Conclusions and recommendations will be presented in the last section of this paper.

2-9600551-8-7  2006 EuMA

157

September 2006, Manchester UK

based on distributed model. The usage of MEMS capacitors can greatly increase the unloaded quality factor due the high values of these quality factors (>100). CMEMS must be limited due to the coupling effect between MEMS resonator and MMIC device. In order to obtain the unloaded quality factor of this MEMS resonator. Such expression is reported by equation 1. The next section of this paper depicts the simulations and measurements that have been performed on the two VCO architectures. Thus. The relation between unloaded and loaded quality factors of MEMS resonator is given by equation 5. The loading effects of the MEMS resonator on its quality factor are given by the load coefficient k. The unloaded CPW exhibits a capacitance of 120 fF/mm and a characteristic impedance of 50 Ω. when the resonator is loaded. Compared to quality factor of available integrated resonators (inductors) on MMIC silicon based technologies (Q∼12) or newly MMIC technologies (Q∼15) [8]. output power and then efficiency of the oscillator due to improvement 158 . III. The other constrain to keep in mind is that CMEMS must be great compared to MMIC capacitance. reduction of dielectric losses improves greatly the quality factor of MEMS resonator. SIMULATIONS.91 -80 -87 Oscillation frequency (GHz) Phase noise (dB/Hz) @100kHz Pout (dBm) -0. This value is very high compared to the quality factor of unloaded CPW. k= Qres QBOND (4) Q0 = β 2 ⋅α (1) We have found a value in the range of 0. MEASUREMENTS AND DISCUSSIONS The two architectures have been simulated using ADS software platform and the results are summarized in table 1. Furthermore. Such a value must be kept higher to operating frequency. an additional inductance value is added. 17 μm ∅).fBRAGG = 1 π ⋅ L ⋅ (C + CMEMS ) (3) Fig 1: Top view of MEMS based VCO active part. Each micromachined bridge exhibits a 94 fF capacitance. The expression of Bragg frequency is given by equation 3.37. is possible because operating frequency of VCO (10 GHz) is below the resonator's Bragg frequency.93 9. Equation 2 shows also that dielectric losses have a great influence on quality factor but not the characteristic impedance of CPW. our MEMS resonator exhibits enhanced quality factor (Q∼30). an equivalent circuit of the MEMS variable resonator has been developed and has been implemented in ADS simulator. Thus. In order to tune the frequency range of our VCO. if we consider only the dielectric losses. Equation 3 shows the quality factor improvement of CPW by using MEMS capacitances. in order to avoid a degradation of tuning sensitivity and tuning range. which translates into an unloaded quality factor of MEMS resonator in the range of 40.β). which decreases the resonant frequency. The central operating frequency of VCO is then tuned by simulation in order to determine the required values of CMEMS. QBOND is the interconnections quality factor (bounding wires between MMIC and MEMS). the unloaded quality factor of unloaded CPW is in the range of 17. Qres = QLres ⋅ (1 + k ) (5) Qres = Q0 ⋅ C + CMEMS C (2) Where C is the total capacitance of the unloaded CPW and CMEMS is the equivalent capacitance of the MEMS bridges. which is equal to 16 GHz. thus total capacitance is in the 127 fF. which is a poor value. MMIC SiGe VCO MEMS based VCO 9. Thus. we can express it. it lies in the range of 106 at a frequency range of 10 GHz (gold. The resonator is 1050 μm long. As. given by equation 4. the new expression of unloaded quality factor of new CPW is the following. The computed load quality factor of MEMS resonator is then in the range of 30. which limits the CMEMS and quality factor values. with tunable propagation constant γ (γ=α+j. we will demonstrate latter. The simulation results indicate that the MEMS IC concept features significant benefits both in term of phase noise. according to γ. Where L is deduced by the characteristic impedance of the unloaded CPW [7]. Such analysis. The MEMS resonator can be modeled by a distributed transmission line model.4 +4 Table 1: compareason between simulated data for the two VCO architectures. The MEMS resonator is coupled to the active MMIC device by bounding wires.

From MEMS resonator's quality factor and equation 2.15 6.25 6. which correspond to a 25 % dispersion. Fig 2: Top view of MEMS resonator. The expected height of bridge is different from the obtained value. Fig 3: Oscillating frequency of MEMS VCO versus tuning voltage. The discrepancy between simulated and measured operating frequency corresponds to technological dispersion of the bridges heights and bounding wires sizes.of resonator's quality factor. One way is to reduce the dielectric losses exhibited by the CPW by using electric shield [13.034. according to the tuning voltage. explain the observed discrepancies on VCO operating frequency. It has been measured a phase noise level in the range of -85 dBc/Hz at a frequency offset of 100 kHz. This value. turning out to a different capacitance that explains a part of the discrepancy observed on the oscillation frequency.35 Oscillation frequency (GHz) 6.9 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 Tuning voltage (V) deflection [10].3 6. 6. The second issue. Measured values of operating frequency from 6. by using the same structure of our first MEMS resonator with floating metal strips of 10 μm width and of 450 μm length.08 dB/mm and a propagation constant of γ=(9. the CPW quality factor will be improved. from this analysis. we have measured a value in the range of 37. Then. added to discrepancy related to bridge's height (16%). have outlined the dispersions effects.05 6 5.93 GHz for bias voltage ranging from 0V to 65V as plotted in figure 3. We suggest that this behavior is associated with a stress gradient into the MEMS structure induced by an excessive temperature size during the interconnection (bounding wire) process [9].15].1 6.95 5. IV. we have investigated the ways to improve the quality factor of CPW used in the MEMS resonator. that the theoretical value of bridge capacitance was multiplied by a factor 1. We have confirmed these assumptions by using an analytical model of bridge's 159 . which translates a loaded quality factor in the range of 27 [11]. Ten microns separate each strip from each the others.2 6. Concerning the oscillation frequency. From these theoretical data.2. Our investigations against such an improvement of MEMS resonator are reported in the next section of this paper.35 to 5.21+j. which is better than value obtained without shield (16 in our first measured MEMS resonator). we have calculated a CPW quality factor of 29. Such a solution limits the electric field's propagation area within the BCB layer. Figure 4 depicts the structure of our patterned ground shield transmission line. which is near from the expected one (30).06 in our first MEMS resonator). we extract the new value of effective dielectric loss constant. Thus. We have performed 3-D electromagnetic simulations with HFSS software. well below to value obtained without shield (0. due to bridges unexpected deflection and height discrepancy. Dispersion of bounding wires inductance is related to wires lengths dispersion. Then. Thus. validates our predictive design methodology. The strips are located at the silicon-BCB interface of substrate's layers. which lies in the range of 0. the unloaded quality factor is proportional to the CPW quality factor. The two architectures have been realized and measured.4 6. the effective dielectric loss constant will be improved. We have conducted structural measurements through profilometry. as well as distance between each wire (mutual coupling between each wire). Simulations have shown an attenuation constant of 0.4 GHz.14. We have obtained. Thanks to theory developed in [12]. and consequently the electrical behavior of MEMS resonator. in order to extract the bridges height. The figure 2 reports the picture of MEMS resonator structure.524)/m. Concerning the unloaded quality factor of MEMS resonator. measurements have shown values ranging from 6.3 to 8. Such dispersion. The pull-down actuation voltage of MEMS resonator was removed in the range of 63 V that is relevant with the measurements. FURTHER IMPROVEMENT According to equation 2. responsible of the discrepancy between measurement and simulation deals with the dispersion induced by the interconnections coupling. The value has indeed been increased from 12 (integrated resonator) to 30 (above IC resonator). the overall theoretical unloaded quality factor of MEMS resonator wills lies in the range of 70 (see equation 2). This discrepancy is also responsible for the difference obtained on the actuation voltage that was theoretically 30 volts when 65 volts have been measured. when -87 dBc/Hz was expected.

n°3.Kim. compared to its first version. n°7. [11] D.. The structure of MEMS resonator is then unchanged.S. are improved. D. [13] A. and we are convinced that the benefits could be more pronounced at millimeterwave frequency. M. Hong IEEE Member. CONCLUSIONS This paper investigates the capabilities of MEMS resonator for low phase noise VCO at 10 GHz applications. “RF MEMS theory. Dubuc. Febrary 2000.Equations 4 and 5 enable us to calculate the expected value of loaded quality factor of this new version of MEMS resonator. pp 27-30.Park.Vendier. The tuning range lies in the range of 610 MHz. We have computed a value in the range of 42. n°11. Then. Baek. have shown the very attractive capabilities of MEMS IC concept for microwave devices. Yoon IEEE Member & S. In order to avoid the discrepancy between simulated and measured operating frequency. The circuits have been fabricated and the feasibility has been demonstrated. Tournier. Rebeiz. "On-Chip Interconnect Lines with Patterned Ground Shields". [3] F. Coustou. E. [15] R.Komijani. [9] M. October 2003. O. n°9. Vol 35. J.0 dB. Lee. Vol 10. Dubuc. Including the parasitic bounding wires inductance.C.66. Munich (Germany).Murano. " 8-GHz CMOS Quadrature VCO Using Transformer-Based LC Tank". 2003. Clark & C. J. "On the design of RF spiral inductors on silicon". "A low loss MEMS transmission line with shielded ground". R. 2003. R. Such a result shows the interest of using MEMS technology to design low phase noise VCO in the X band frequency range. Nov 2005. F.2 MHz/V. when using electric shield under CPW. "A 24 GHz. pp 1901-1908. simulated oscillating frequency lies in the range of 10. Melendes & R. Nguyen.0 dBm. IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.Choi. J. Plana. J. [12] T. M. Cordero. Vol 53. B. IEEE Transactions on Electron devices. Moreover. O’Mahony. Llopis. Llopis. which lies in the range 0. D. July 2005. O.. Bannon III. A. A. The final device is now under fabrication and the results will be given during the oral session of conference. Coustou. REFERENCES [1] M. Thus. [7] A. Fig 4: Structure of our patterned ground shielded CPW. n°4." Frequency synthesis from 2 to 30 GHz using a 0. Feb.368. using the MEMS IC concept. [4] A. J. Microwave and Millimeter-Wave Monolithic Circuits Symposium Digest. the expected phase noise level. A lower effective dielectric constant implies a higher propagation wavelength. Graffeuil. July 2001. Simulated output signal is in the range of +4. D. H. Hacker. [14] E. an optimized MEMS resonator has been proposed from the experimental analysis. “Low Phase Noise IP VCO for Multistandard Communication Using a 0. E. R. IEEE Microwave Wireless Comp Lett. Lee. pp 512-526. E.35μm BiCMOS SiGe Technology” Microwave and Wireless Components Letters. April 2000. G. Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.5-dBm fully integrated power amplifier in 0. J. H. September 2005. [10] Gabriel M. is in the range of -88 dBc/Hz. The computed load constant of MEMS resonator k is in the range of 0. Melle. DeNatale. Graffeuil. n°47.Cazaux.Dubuc. Slattery & C.N. "Oscillator Phase Noise: A Tutorial". Lishchynska. Vol 13. Plana. Lowther. The improvement of loaded quality factor of MEMS resonator enables us to expect a phase noise level improvement of this new version of MEMS based VCO. R. Mihailovich & J. MA. pp1705-1711.. O. Such a value is to compare with the value extracted on the first version of MEMS based VCO. R. compared to our reference of VCO (MMIC version). Lohr. B. O.3 dB. C. [8] J. design. Such a value represents an improvement of 8. 33rd European Microwave Conference. Vol 40. B. pp 718 729. Wileyinterscience Edition 2003. and technology”. Hajimiri. T.18-μm CMOS". [2] L. IEEE 16 th Annual Int Conf on MEMS 2003.Volume: 15 . IEEE . J.S. T. n° 10. n°3. The other is a heterogeneous integration of a high Q MEMS resonator device with a negative resistance SiGe device. "High-Q HF microelectromechanical filters.Bo Yoon. then the Bragg condition is always respected. 160 . “Modelling electrostatic behavior of microcantilevers incorporating residual stress gradient and non-ideal anchors”.Grenier. pp 326-336. Larson. 2005 . Hackett. n°2. Issue: 2 . De Conto. Vol 15. D.Natarajan & A. IEEE Trans MTT.35 μm BiCMOS SiGe technology ". the coupling conditions. S. Kim. IEEE Microwave & Guided wave Letters. Vol 35.. March 2003. at a frequency offset of 100 kHz from carrier. Theoretical analysis. Tournier. "A monolithic MEMS switched dual-path power amplifier. pp 3482-3488.5 GHz. Thus. R. IEEE Microwave & Wireless comp Lett. n°7. 1999. The distance between the two bridges is unchanged. K. F. D. we take care during the interconnect operation. N.Hajimiri. Sie. Vol 50. Song. [6] A. Burghartz. due to thermal stress. which demonstrates a 8 dB improvement of phase noise with the concept of MEMS-IC compared to a silicon all integrated VCO. according to our mechanical model of deflection versus actuation voltage. as well as experimental data.Nagra & R. June 1991. "Micromachined microwave actuator (MIMAC) technology_ a new tuning approach for microwave integrated circuits. [5] S. E. IEEE Journal of solid state circuits. +14. ISBN 0-471-20169-3. E. Vol 11. Boston. “Reliability modelling of capacitive RF MEMS” IEEE Trans MTT. pp 136-139. pp 285-286. IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits.Rejaei. Y. V. Two architectures have been compared. The average tuning sensitivity in the range of 15.York. 71 – 73.L..A. we have simulated the VCO' s operating frequency versus tuning voltage.L. in the range of 3. A.Plana."Distributed analog phase shifter with low insertion loss". The first is a silicon based monolithically integrated VCO. March 2000.

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