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ECEn 464: Wireless Communications Circuits


3.5 Noise in Communications Systems
There are several types of noise that are included in communication systems. 1. Thermal Noise (Johnson or Nyquist noise): Created by thermal vibration of bound charges 2. Shot Noise: Random fluctuations of charge carriers in a solid-state device 3. Flicker Noise (1/f noise): Occurs in solid-state components. The noise power varies as 1/f 4. Plasma Noise: Random motion of charges in an ionized gas Thermal noise tends to be dominant in most systems, so we will concentrate on this. Consider a resistor with resistance R at a temperature T (in Kelvin). The kinetic energy of the electrons is proportional to T . The random motion of the electrons create voltage fluctuations at the resistor terminals. The voltage has zero average, but the RMS value is given by Planck’s blackbody radiation equation vn = where B h kB f Bandwidth in Hertz Planck’s constant = 6.546 × 10−34 J·sec Boltzmann’s constant = 1.380 × 10−23 J/K frequency (Hz) 4hf BR −1 (3.80)

ehf /kB T

If the frequency is large, say f = 100 GHz, and the temperature is low, so that T = 100K, then hf = 6.5 × 10−23 << kB T = 1.38 × 10−21 (3.81)

This means that the exponent hf /kB T is very small. The inequality gets even larger for microwave frequencies at room temperature (T = 273 K). Because of this, at microwave frequencies the exponential can be approximated by the first two terms of the Taylor series, ehf /kB T ≈ 1 + This simplifies the RMS voltage to vn ≈ 4hf BR = 1 + hf /kB T − 1 4kB T BR (3.83) hf kB T (3.82)

In this approximation, v n is independent of frequency. For this reason, the thermal noise signal is called “white noise”. We generally model the noise voltage as a random variable with a zero mean Gaussian distribution with variance v 2 . Given multiple noise sources, the distributions are independent. Mathematically, n this means that if you combine multiple noise sources, the variance of the sum is equal to the sum of the variances (we add the noise powers, not the voltages). Jensen & Warnick November 19, 2004

ECEn 464: Wireless Communications Circuits




Figure 3.3: Equivalent circuit of a noise source. We can replace any noisy (warm) resistor with a Thevenin equivalent of a noise source and an ideal, noiseless resistor (Fig. 3.3). If we connect this equivalent circuit to a bandpass filter with bandwidth B Hz and then to a second ideal resistor R (where the resistance of the load is chosedn for maximum power transfer), the noise power delivered to the load is Pn = vn 2R


v2 n 4R


Note that we do not have another of two in the denominator since the voltage is already an RMS quantity. Using our expression for v n leads to 4kB T BR = kB T B (3.85) 4R When working with microwave signals, it is often convenient to use units of dBm, which means power expressed in decibels relative to 1 milliwatt (dBm is 10 log 10 [Power(mW)]). Often, you will hear that the noise floor of a system is 10 log10 kB T = −174 dBm/Hz at T = 290 K. In order to go from this quantity, which measures the amount of noise power in a 1 Hz bandwidth, we multiply by the system bandwidth, or add 10 log10 B in dB to find the total in-band noise power. Pn =


Noise Figure

A key measure of system performance is signal-to-noise ratio (SNR): Signal Power S = (3.86) N Noise Power A high SNR means that it is easy to recognize the signal, and a low SNR means that the signal is obscured by noise. Ideal components do not add any noise, so the SNR at the output is the same as the SNR at the input. Non-ideal component in general will add some additional noise, so the output SNR is less than the input SNR. SNR = Noise figure is a measure of the degradation in signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) as a signal passes through any component. The definition of noise figure (F ) is the ratio of the total available noise power at the amplifier output to the available noise power at the output due to the input noise: F = Output noise power ≥1 Ideal output noise power = Gain × input noise power GA = Jensen & Warnick Pavn So = Pavs Si (3.87)

For an ideal component, F = 1. The gain used in this expression is the available gain

(3.88) November 19, 2004

ECEn 464: Wireless Communications Circuits


290 K




Figure 3.4: Noisy amplifier. It can be seen that noise figure is also equal to the ratio of the input SNR to the output SNR: F We can also write F = GA N i + P n Pn =1+ GA N i GA N i (3.90) = No Si /Ni SNRin No = = = N i GA Ni So /Si So /No SNRout (3.89)

which is also useful for some derivations. Since noise figure is a dimensionless quantity, it is often expressed in dB.


Equivalent Noise Temperature

We can also express the “noisiness” of a component in terms of an equivalent noise temperature using P = kB T B: F = Te Si /kB T0 B =1+ GSi /GkB (T0 + Te )B T0 (3.91)

When specifying the equivalent temperature Te of a component, we assume that the input noise power corresponds to room temperature, so that T0 = 290 K. Equivalent temperature is most useful for low noise figure devices.


Lossy Components

A lossy system component such as a length of lossy transmission line leads to a degradation in SNR. The basic principle for determining the noise figure of a lossy component is to realize that the noise power at the output of the component must be the same as the noise power at the input (thermal equilibrium), so that GNi + GNadded = Ni (3.92)

Solving for the equivalent additional power at the input gives N added = Ni (1 − G)/G. The noise figure is then F =1+ Pn Ni (1 − G) 1 =1+ = =L GNi GNi G (3.93)

where L is the power loss of the device. Thus, the noise figure is the same as the loss. Jensen & Warnick November 19, 2004

ECEn 464: Wireless Communications Circuits



Cascaded Networks

If we have two stages in a system, No = GA2 No1 + Pn2 = GA2 (GA1 Ni + Pn1 ) + Pn2 Pn1 Pn2 GA2 (GA1 Ni + Pn1 ) + Pn2 =1+ + F = Ni GA1 GA2 Ni GA1 Ni GA1 GA2 (3.94) (3.95)

Because the gain GA1 appears in the denominator of the second and third terms, the first stage in a system is most critical in obtaining a low noise system if GA1 is large. In terms of the noise figures of the two stages, F1 = 1 + F2 Pn1 Ni GA1 Pn2 = 1+ Ni GA2 (3.96) (3.97) (3.98) the noise figure of the system is F = F1 + F2 − 1 GA1 (3.99)

The noise figure of the second state is divided by the gain of the first stage. Again, we can see that the first stage is most critical in determining the noise figure of the system.

3.6 Low Noise Amplifiers
For an amplifier, it can be shown that F = Fmin + where Ys = Gs + jBs = source admittance Yopt = optimum source admittance resulting in minimum noise figure F Fmin = minimum noise figure RN = equivalent noise resistance of transistor Since Ys = 1 1 − Γs Zo 1 + Γ s Yopt = 1 1 − Γopt Zo 1 + Γopt (3.101) RN |Ys − Yopt |2 Gs (3.100)

Jensen & Warnick

November 19, 2004

ECEn 464: Wireless Communications Circuits
1 1 − Γs 1 − Γopt − 2 Zo 1 + Γs 1 + Γopt


|Ys − Yopt |2 = = = = Gs = = = = So, the noise figure becomes F

1 1 − Γs + Γopt − Γs Γopt − 1 − Γs + Γopt + Γs Γopt 2 Zo (1 + Γs )(1 + Γopt ) −2Γs + 2Γopt 1 2 Zo (1 + Γs )(1 + Γopt )


2 Γs − Γopt 4 2 Zo (1 + Γs )(1 + Γopt ) 1 Re {Ys } = (Ys + Ys∗ ) 2 1 1 − Γs 1 − Γ∗ s + 2Zo 1 + Γs 1 + Γ∗ s 1 1 − Γs + Γ∗ − |Γs |2 + 1 + Γs − Γ∗ − |Γs |2 s s 2Zo |1 + Γs |2 1 1 − |Γs |2 Zo |1 + Γs |2



= Fmin + RN Zo

Γs − Γopt 1 − |Γs |2 4 2 |1 + Γs |2 Zo (1 + Γs )(1 + Γopt ) |Γs − Γopt |2 4RN = Fmin + Zo (1 − |Γs |2 )|1 + Γopt |2



Now, what we would like is to know the values of Γs to give a fixed noise figure. To do this, we first define the noise figure parameter N , which consists of all the factors that do not depend on Γ s : N= |Γs − Γopt |2 F − Fmin = |1 + Γopt |2 2 1 − |Γs | 4RN /Zo (Γs − Γopt )(Γ∗ − Γ∗ ) = N (1 − Γs Γ∗ ) s opt s (3.106) (3.105)

We do this to isolate the terms containing Γs , and lump the rest into N . Therefore,

|Γs |2 − Γs Γ∗ − Γ∗ Γopt + |Γopt |2 = N (1 − |Γs |2 ) opt s Γ∗ N − |Γopt |2 Γopt opt |Γs |2 − Γs − Γ∗ = s 1+N 1+N 1+N Once again, we see this is a circle with CF rF = = Γopt N +1 N (N + 1 − |Γopt |2 ) N +1

(3.107) (3.108)

Using these expressions, we can now draw gain, stability, and noise figure circles on the Γ s Smith chart and pick a value of Γs to achieve multiple specifications.

Jensen & Warnick

November 19, 2004

ECEn 464: Wireless Communications Circuits


3.7 Dynamic Range Issues for Amplifiers
There are a few things we need to understand about the power operation of amplifiers. 1. 1 dB Compression Point: This is defined as the Output power at which the gain has dropped 1 dB from its low-power value. Note that the slope of the output versus input power curve is 1 dB/dB. We often denote this point as P1dB . 2. Dynamic Range: Range of input that can be detected by the receiver without appreciable distortion. Consider an amplifier with a noise figure F: F No = No No = GA N i GA k B T B = F G A kB T B (3.109) (3.110)

If the minimum detectable signal for the receiver output (denoted as S o,mds ) is X dB above the noise floor, then So,mds = −174 dBm + 10 log10 B + FdB + X + GA,dB (3.111)

where we have used that 10 log 10 (kB T /1e − 3) = −174 dBm at T = 290 K. The dynamic range is then the difference between the 1 dB compression point P 1dB and So,mds , or DR = P1dB − So,mds = P1dB + 174 dBm − 10 log10 B − FdB − X − GA,dB
Ideal amplifier


1 dB

Output Power

Noise floor

Input Power

1 dB compression point

Figure 3.5: Dynamic range of an amplifier.

3. Third Order Intercept (TOI, TOIP, IP3 ): Consider a two-tone test where the input signal is v(t) = A cos 2πf1 t + A cos 2πf2 t where |f1 − f2 | 5 to 10 MHz. The output frequencies will be of the form fo = mf1 + nf2 Jensen & Warnick (3.114) November 19, 2004 (3.113)

ECEn 464: Wireless Communications Circuits
where m and n are integers. The order of the intermodulation product (IP) is given by |m| + |n|.


Note that 2f1 −f2 and 2f2 −f1 will be inside the communication band. The third order intercept point PIP is defines as the output power at which the third order IP power intersects the linear power (assuming no gain compression/saturation occurs). The slope of the third order intermodulation product output power versus input power is 3 dB/dB. 4. Spurious Free Dynamic Range: To compute this dynamic range, we continue to use S o,mds as the lower bound. However, for the upper bound, we take the output power (in the fundamental signal) at which the third order intermodulation product output power reaches S o,mds .

Jensen & Warnick

November 19, 2004