Silicon Integrated Patch Antennas for Terahertz Imaging Applications

¨ Neda Baktash, Erik Ojefors, Hans M. Keller and Ullrich R. Pfeiffer
High-Frequency and Communication Technology, University of Wuppertal Rainer-Gruenter-Str. 21, D-42119 Wuppertal, Germany and

Abstract— Patch antennas for 0.65 THz imaging applications have been implemented in the silicon-oxide backend of a 0.25 µm BiCMOS technology. Integrated transistor-based square-law detectors are used to characterize the co- and cross-polarization radiation patterns of differentially fed patch elements arranged in a 3×5 pixel array. Each element of the array provides a ±50 degree E-plane and ±30 degree H-plane beamwidth with a measured pixel-to-pixel variation of less than 2 dB.

I. I NTRODUCTION The use of terahertz radiation, which spans the frequency range from 300 GHz to 3 THz, is currently gaining interest in a number of different fields. Its potential applications include various scientific areas such as pharmaceutical product inspection, biomedical imaging, radio astronomy, biosensing and security screening. The latter one has received attention because terahertz radiation can penetrate a number of materials such as clothes, paper, cardboard and many plastic or ceramic materials [1]. Besides, terahertz radiation causes no potentially harmful photon-ionization in biological tissues due to its low-energy photons. Hence, it could enable imaging with three-dimensional and tomographical content with increased resolution. One obstacle preventing wide-spread use of terahertz technology has been the lack of low-cost and easily integrated detectors. By contrast, at optical wavelengths, silicon technologies offer the possibility of highly integrated imaging systems such as digital cameras. Improvements in Si/SiGe technology, with devices showing fmax higher than 300 GHz, have recently made it possible to realize terahertz focal-plane imaging arrays (FPA) using CMOS [2] and bipolar SiGe transistors [3]. The antenna is a critical component of a terahertz FPA since its cross-talk and efficiency influences the quality of the acquired image as well as the sensitivity of the array. In the first silicon implementations of a FPA [2], [3] on-chip dipole antennas were used as the receiving elements. Dipole antennas integrated in silicon technologies do, however, suffer from substrate waves and high losses caused by the silicon substrate. Patch antennas, on the other hand, do not show such losses since the silicon is shielded by a ground plane. In [4], an on-chip patch antenna in a CMOS silicon-oxide backend was successfully demonstrated at 410 GHz, but no

antenna characterization was provided. Similar patch antennas were used by the authors in [5] to improve the results of the previously published 3×5 FPA [2], but the simulated radiation patterns were not verified by measurements. In this paper, the first radiation pattern and resonance frequency measurements of 0.65 THz patch antennas integrated in the backend of a silicon BiCMOS technology are presented. The antenna design and measurement setup are also discussed. II. PATCH A NTENNA D ESIGN The patch-antenna detector array, which has been implemented in a 0.25 µm BiCMOS technology [6], is shown in Fig. 1. The process technology provides a five-metal-layer silicon-oxide (SiO2 ) backend which yields a dielectric with H = 8 µm thickness between the top (M5) metal layer, used for the patch radiators and the bottom (M1) ground-plane metal layer. Dielectric losses in the silicon substrate are avoided since the substrate is fully shielded by the M1 ground plane. The half-wavelength patch radiators are formed by a W = 100 µm wide sheet where the length L determines the resonance frequency. Patches of five different lengths have been designed using an EM-simulation package (HFSS) in order to verify correct tuning of the antenna. A patch length of L = 87 µm yields a 650 GHz design frequency while L = 100 µm and L = 75 µm correspond to resonance frequencies of 550 GHz and 750 GHz, respectively. Microstrip transmission lines connected to each radiating edge of the patch element feed the differential CMOS detector. The antenna provides a simulated differential input impedance of 2 × 300 Ω at the resonance frequency which yields a good match to the high-impedance of the detector transistors. The individual detector pixels are arranged into a 3×5 array with 200 µm vertical and 150 µm horizontal spacing. III. C HARACTERIZATION S ETUP The antennas have been characterized in the setup shown in Fig. 2. A multiplier chain driven by a microwave source is used to generate a 1mW carrier at 650 GHz. The carrier is electronically chopped with a 1 kHz square-wave signal in order to facilitate the use of lock-in techniques in presence of dc-offset and 1/f noise. The output signal from the multiplier


(c) IMA


German Microwave Conference 2010

This is Fig. The correct resonance frequency has been verified by comparing the detected power at 650 GHz of the samples designed with resonance frequencies between 550 GHz and 750 GHz. but within ±30 degree beamwidth. Return-loss measurements at the transmission line ports of the patch antennas have not been performed since wafer probes are not available at frequencies above 325 GHz. b) Cross-section of a patch antenna element. H = 8 µm. IV. This 3-dB ripple is likely due to reflections and diffraction effects from the field of view limitations imposed by the chip package. The same results have been captured in H-plane measurements (Fig. predicted by theory [7] and simulations (HFSS) due to fieldof-view limitations caused by the package and absorbers in the measurement setup. The E-plane results at angles larger than 40 degree show a drop of more than the -3-dB. 4 is better than 15 dB which means noise has no impact on these variations even in verified repeated measurements. E-plane co. 4) between B and C elements in Fig. The field of view is limited by the meausurement setup to ±50 degrees. R ESULTS The measured co. 4 for the E-plane and the Hplane. 3. respectively. The fall-off of gain with increased angles in the H-plane is also in accordance with theory. 1. 3 and Fig. 2.and cross-polarization meaurements for the edge (A) and center (B) elements.Fig. a) Micrograph of the implemented patch antenna area. 1). a middle and an edge pixel in one array (A and B elements in Fig. Similar patterns have been recorded for both. bond wires and the absorbers in the measurement setup. 1. The third (bottom) row includes patch antenna elements (1-5) designed with 550 GHz to 750 GHz resonance frequency. A to C indicates the position of the characterized antennas. 3 and Fig. Also pixel-to-pixel variations in the results have been observed. where the edge output power is in average 2 dB lower than middle one within a ±50 degree beamwidth. Measurements at 650 GHz of the relative detected output power from the five patch radiators with different design 14 . Fig.and cross-polarization radiation patterns are shown in Fig. A lock-in amplifier with synchronization to the 1 kHz reference signal is used together with a data acquisition system to capture the output of a single pixel. is radiated by an integrated horn antenna. Free-space setup for radiation pattern and resonance frequency measurements. the cross-polarization level for each of them is very near to the noise floor. As expected. But the SNR value in Fig.

.” IEEE J. Theory and Tech.. Siegel. 2008. no. C. [6] B. Ojefors. 2. Pfeiffer. vol. Pfeiffer. “A 600-GHz CMOS focal-plane array for terahertz imaging applications. K. Richards. Technol. Germany. “A 410 GHz CMOS push-push oscillator with an on-chip patch antenna. for chip fabrication and the European Heads of Research Councils (EuroHORCs) and the European Science Foundation for partial funding of this work through an European Young Investigator Award. “High performance BiCMOS technologies without epitaxially-buried subcollectors and deep trenches.. vol.ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The author would like to thank the IHP GmbH. pp. R. Shim. Fig. A. D. “Theory and experiment on microstrip antennas. Frankfurt(Oder). 1968–1976. pp. Lisauskas. A. [7] Y. and W. no. “Opportunities for silicon at mmWave and terahertz frequencies. “A 0. pp. 2007. R. 27. T. Pfeiffer and E. H.. 3. D. The highest power is observed for the 650 GHz antenna while the 750 GHz radiator shows a 6 dB lower response. O.” in European Solid-State Circuits Conf. C ONCLUSION The radiation patterns of patch antennas in a 3×5 0. and W. Ojefors. pp. 5. 2008.and cross-polarization meaurements for the center (B) and edge (C) elements frequencies are shown in Fig. R¨ cker. B. D. 44. Tillack. Seok.65 THz single-chip focal-plane array (FPA) have been characterized.-M. Knoll. 5. Roskos. V. H. Sci. D. ¨ [3] U. 910–928. 50.” IEEE Trans. The Numbers at the bottom of the graph are related to the position of patch antennas have been shown in Fig. Roskos. Arenas. R EFERENCES [1] P. vol. 110–114. 4. Fig. Microw. and H. 22. no. Lisauskas. ¨ [2] U. H-plane co. Solid-State Circuits Conf. Ojefors. Good uniformity with less than 2 dB relative gain variations between array elements is observed. vol. 472–473. R. pp. 1a. E.65 THz focal-plane array in a quarter-micron CMOS process technology. pp.. J. U. D. 7. 2009. Cao. “Terahertz technology.” Semicond. ¨ [5] E. G.” IEEE Trans. 149–156. Barth. 15 . Heinemann. [4] E.” in IEEE Bipolar/BiCMOS Circuits and Technology Meeting (BCTM). The good agreement of the beam patterns and the resonance frequencies with their predicted values validates the design approach based on foundry back-end material data and EM-simulations. 1979. Solid-State Circuits. Relative gain at 650 GHz for antennas with design frequencies between 550 GHz and 750 GHz. March 2002. 2008.” in IEEE Intl. 153–157. and K. B. Similar results are seen in the crosspolarization values although the difference is smaller. Theory and Tech. Winu kler. Microw. Low ripple and cross-polarization levels are obtained within the beamwidth. Hung. R. C. and H. pp. LO. Tanner. Solmon. 137–145.

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