RF Transceiver Module Design
Department of Electronic Engineering
National Taipei University of Technology
• Power Capability and Efficiency
• Matching Considerations
• Classification of Amplifiers
• Match to Desired Power
• Practical Issues with Power Amplifiers
On-chip and off-chip power combing
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• Power amplifiers (PAs) are used in the transmitter, typically to
drive antennas and trade off efficiency and linearity.
• ICs typically have a limited power supply voltage to avoid
breakdown, as well as a metal migration limit for current. Thus,
simply achieving the desired output power can be a challenge.
• PAs dissipate power and generate heat, which has to be
removed. Due to the small size of integrated circuits, this is a
challenging exercise in design and packaging.
• PAs are among the last circuits to be fully integrated.
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• One of the main goals of PA design is to deliver a given power
to a load. This is determined to a large degree by the load
resistor and the power supply.
• Given a particular power supply voltage VCC , such as 3-V, and
a load resistance RL , such as 50 , it is possible to determine
the maximum power to be
This assumes we have a tuned amplifier and an operating point of 3-V, a peak
negative swing down to 0 V, and a peak positive swing up to 6 V.
90 mW 19.5 dBm
2 2 50
= = = ⇒
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• Efficiency (dc-to-RF efficiency):
How effectively power from the supply is converted into output power
• Assuming voltage and current are in phase, Pout is given by
• Pdc is the power from the supply and is given by
where Idc is the dc component of the current waveform.
1 1 1
out LP i v i R= =
1 T T
dc CC C C CC dc
P V i dt i dt V I
= = =∫ ∫
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Power-added Efficiency (PAE)
• Power-added efficiency (PAE) takes the gain of the amplifier
into account as follows:
For a high gain amplifier, PAE is the same as dc-to-RF efficiency .
PP P GPAE
P P G
= = = −
< 10%, as G >10dB
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20
−5 0 5 10 15
PAEPAE decreases as
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• In order to obtain maximum output power, typically the power
amplifier is “power-matched” but not conjugately matched.
• Note that conjugate matching means that and
as shown in the figure.
Γ = Γ L out
Γ = Γ
If conjugately matched, ands in
Γ = Γ L out
Γ = Γ
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Matching to versus Matching to ….
• For low input power where the amplifier is linear, maximum
output power is obtained with . However, this value of
z will not be the optimum load for high input power where
the amplifier is nonlinear.
• For large-signal operation, tuning is done by determining the
optimal load with doing the load pull.
Γ = Γ
Tuning at small signal
Tuning for optimal
Bx : 1 dB gain compression
Ax : max. uncompressed power
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Optimum Load Impedance
• An estimate of the optimum impedance Ropt can be made by
adjusting the load so that the transistor current and voltage go
through their maximum excursion.
o CC C C CEV V I R V= − =
minV dcV maxV
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Class A, B, and C Amplifiers (I)
• PAs are grouped into classes depending on the nature of their
voltage and current waveforms.
• Class A amplifiers can be designed
to have more gain than class B or
class C amplifiers. However, the
achievable output power is nearly
the same for a class A, class AB, or
class B amplifier. For a class C
amplifier, where the transistor
conducts for a short part of the
period, the output power is reduced.
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Class A, B, and C Amplifiers (II)
• The maximum collector voltage is approximately 0 V to 2VCC .
While the vC is assumed to be sinusoidal (tuned circuit
filtering), iC may be sinusoidal, as in class A operation, or may
be nonsinusoidal, as in class B or C operation, which is
determined mainly by how the transistor is biased.
Class A Class B Class C
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Classification by Conduction Angle
• Conduction angle: The fraction of the full cycle for which
current is flowing in the driver transistor.
Class A (Cond 360 ): current is always flowing
Class B (Cond 180 ): current flows for exactly half of the time
Class AB (180 Cond 360 )
Class C (180 > Cond)
• A higher conduction angle results in better linearity but lower
Class Conduction Angle (deg.)
A 360 50 1
AB 360 ~ 180 50 ~ 78.5 ~ 1 (max 1.15@240o)
B 180 78.5 1
C 180 ~ 0 78.5 ~ 100 1@180o, 0@0o
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• Power loss in the transistor must be minimized (current should
be minimum while voltage is high, and vice versa).
• For class B and C, the current is set to zero for part of the
cycle where the voltage is high. There is still an overlap of
nonzero voltage and current to cause some loss.
• Classes D, E, F, and S, are designed such that the voltage
across the transistor is also nonlinear, leading to higher
efficiencies, in some cases up to 100%.
• A different way to improve efficiency, while potentially
maintaining linearity, is to power a linear amplifier from a
variable or switched power supply. This is the basis for class G
and H designs.
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Class A, B, and C Efficiency
• Efficiency for this maximum possible voltage swing is
2 sin 2
4 sin cos
θ θ θ
A Cond. angle2 360θ =
B Cond. angle 2 180θ =
Efficiency = 78 %
Efficiency = 50 %0 45 90 135 180
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Class A, B, and C Output Power
• At a conduction angle of 180 and 360 (or θ = 90 and 180 ),
Po,norm,max is 1. In between is a peak with a value of about 1.15
at a conduction angle of about 240 . This might appear to be
the optimum conduction angle for maximum output power,
however, in real life, or in simulations with other models for
the current, this peak does not occur.
( )0.5η =
( )0.78η =
0 90 180
Class C Class AB( )1η =
1 2 sin 2
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Class D Amplifier
• The two transistors alternately switch the output to ground or
to VCC . The output filter (Lo and Co) is tuned to the
fundamental frequency resulting in a sine wave at the output.
While class D amplifiers can have high efficiency and have
been demonstrated in the 10-MHz frequency range, they are
not practical in the gigahertz range.
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Class E Amplifier (I)
• The capacitor C is the combination of the parasitic transistor
output capacitor Cp and an actual added capacitor CA .
• A capacitor across the output of the transistor is possible to
obtain close to 100% efficiency even with parasitics.
1. The choke is large (only Idc flows through it).
2. The output circuit (Lo,Co) Q is high enough
(all harmonics are removed).
3. The transistor Q1 behaves as a perfect switch.
When it is on, the collector voltage is zero,
and when it is off the collector current is zero.
4. The transistor output capacitance Cp , and
hence C, is independent of voltage.
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Class E Amplifier (II)
• Switch on : vc is 0, and therefore ic
through the capacitor C is 0. In this
case, switch is = Idc − io.
• Switch off : is = 0. ic = Idc − io . This
produces an increase of collector
voltage vc due to the charging of C.
32.8φ = −
0 π 2π
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Class E Amplifier (III)
• For lossless components (as in the assumptions), the only loss
is due to the discharge of C when the switch turns on. If the
components are selected so that vc just reaches zero as the
switch turns on, no energy is lost and the efficiency is 100%.
• In practice, because the assumptions do not strictly hold and
because components will not be ideal, the voltage will not be
at zero and so energy will be lost. However, with careful
design, efficiencies in the 80% range are feasible.
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Class F Amplifier (I)
• Additional harmonic is added to
the fundamental to produce a
collector voltage more like a
square wave. This means vc is
lower while ic is flowing, but
higher while ic is not flowing, to
a higher efficiency.
( )cv θ
( )ci θ
( )ov θ
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Class F Amplifier (II)
• Lo and Co make sure the output is a sinusoid. The third-
harmonic resonator (L3, C3) causes a 3rd harmonic component
in the collector voltage. At the correct amplitude and phase,
this 3rd harmonic component produces a flattening of vc. This
results in higher efficiency and higher output power.
cm CCV V∴ =
cm CCV V=
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Class F Amplifier (III)
• As an aside, the Fourier series for the ideal square wave is
• However, choosing Vcm3 = 1/3Vom would produce a nonflat
• The efficiency can be calculated as Po/Pdc:
sin sin3 sin5
θ θ θ+ + +⋯
92 2 82 88.4 %
cmdc dc CC
iP I V V
= = = ⋅ =
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• A second resonator allows the introduction of a 2nd harmonic
voltage into the collector voltage waveform, producing an
approximation of a half sinusoid. It can be shown that the
amplitude of the 2nd harmonic voltage should be a quarter of
the fundamental. It can be shown that the peak output voltage
is given by
and the efficiency is given by
om CCV V=
η π= ≃
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Quarter-wave Transmission Line
• At fo, the tuned circuit (Lo and Co)
is open. The λ/4 transmission line
is equivalent to having a
resonator at all odd harmonics,
with the result that the collector
voltage is a square wave and
( )cv θ
( )ci θ
( )ov θ
Fund. + Odd harmonics
Fund. + Even harmonics
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A Class-F-driven Class-E PA
• One useful application of a class F amplifier is as a driver for
the class E amplifier. A class E amplifier is ideally driven by a
3L 3C03 f
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Class G Amplifiers
• The class G amplifier has been used mainly for audio
applications, although recently variations of this structure have
been used up to 1 MHz for signals with high peak-to-average
ratios (high crest factor), for example, in digital telephony
applications. This topology uses amplifiers powered from
different supplies. For low level signals, the lower supply is
used and the other amplifier is disabled.
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Class H Amplifiers
• Power supplies track the input signal
or the desired output signal. Thus,
power dissipated is low, since the
driver transistors are operated with a
low-voltage VCE. The efficiency can
be much higher than class A.
• The power supplies use a highly
efficient switching amplifier.
• This technique has mainly been used
for lower frequencies. However, it can
be modified so that the power supply
follows the envelope of the signal
rather than the signal itself.
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Class S Amplifier
• The class S amplifier has as an input a pulse-width modulated
(PWM) signal to turn Q1 and Q2 on or off as switches with a
switching frequency much higher than the signal frequency.
• Lo and Co form a lowpass filter that turns the PWM signal into
an analog waveform. If only positive outputs are needed, only
Q1 and D2 are required. For negative signals, only D1 and Q2
• The switching frequency must be
significantly higher than the signal
frequency, this technique is not
viable for amplification of signals in
the gigahertz frequency range.
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• The load pull technique is used to find the power contour.
Max. output power ,max ,,o L optP Γ
Max. operating power gain, L out
Γ = Γ
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Matching to Achieve Desired Power (I)
• Given a particular power supply voltage and resistance value,
the achievable amount of power is limited by Po » V 2 R.
Obviously, R must be decreased to achieve higher Po .
2o CCP V R≈
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Matching to Achieve Desired Power (II)
• It is possible to increase the bandwidth by using a higher order
of matching network.
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Matching to Achieve Desired Power (III)
• Sometimes higher Q is desired for narrowband applications.
• Bond wire inductance can be used for realizing series
aC bC LR
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• Efficiency increases rapidly with increasing input signal until
saturation of the input device occurs. After saturation,
efficiency is fairly constant, but drops somewhat due to gain
compression (PAE goes down).
• Classes A, B, and C are usually operated just into saturation to
maximize efficiency. Class E (and sometimes F) is operated as
a switch, between saturation and cutoff.
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• The PA requires huge transistors with very high current
handling capability with multiple emitter, base, and collector
stripes (multiple fingers), as well as multiple transistors
distributed to reduce current density and heat concentration.
• Each finger and each transistor is treated the same as every
other finger and transistor. This is important in order to avoid
local hot spots, thermal runaway, and mismatch of phase shifts.
• Metal lines have to be made wide to avoid problems with
metal migration. To increase current capability, it is possible to
use multiple metal layers
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On-Chip Power Combining
• Combine multiple transistors at the output to
distribute the heat and limit the current
density in each transistor.
• The base drive can be phase delayed
compared to the shortest path, so it is
important to keep the line lengths equal.
• With RF or microwave circuits, sharp bends
are to be avoided.
• Phase shift can be determined by considering
that the wavelength of a 1-GHz sine wave in
free space is 30 cm (1.2 /mm). For SiO2
with εr of about 4, the phase shift is about
12 /mm at 5 GHz. Thus, for a distance of 5
mm, we have the phase shift is about 60 .
• Use multiple output pads for parallel bond
wires, or a long pad, to connect more bond
wires if desired.
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Off-Chip Power Combining (I)
• Power combining can also be done off-chip, using techniques
including backward wave couplers (stripline overlay,
microstrip Lange) for octave bandwidth, or the branch-line,
Stripline coupler Branch-line coupler Coupled amplifiers
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Off-Chip Power Combining (II)
• The ‘‘rat race’’ produces two outputs 180 out of phase (or can
combine two inputs that are 180 out of phase).
• The push-pull arrangement is the same as for a class B push-
A Bi i−
Combiner for push-pull operation
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Thermal Runaway – Ballasting
• Under high power, the temperature will
increase. With constant base-emitter
voltage, current increases with temperature.
Thus, if VBE is held constant, if temperature
increases, current increases, and as a result,
more power is dissipated and temperature
will increase even more. This phenomenon
is known as thermal runaway. Typically,
ballast resistors are added in the emitters as
a feedback to prevent such thermal
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• A measure of breakdown is VCEO,max, which is the maximum
allowable value of VCE with the base open circuited to cause
avalanche breakdown . A typical value in a 3-V process might
be 5 V. In processes where this is not possible, it may be
necessary to drop the supply voltage, use cascode devices, and
possibly to make use of more complex biasing, which is
adaptive or at least variable.
cm CC CEOV V V= ≤
Linear amplifier: ,max2cm CC CEOV V V= ≤
Class E amplifier:
Class F amplifier:
,max3.56cm CC CEOV V V= ⋅ ≤
2.5 VCCV ≤
• For VCEO,max = 5 V :
1.4 VCCV ≤
4.44 VCCV ≤
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• How does one remove heat from a power amplifier?
One possible mechanism is thermal conduction through direct
contact, for example, when the die is mounted directly on a
metal backing. Another mechanism is through metal
connections to the bond pads, for example, with wires to the
package or directly to the printed circuit board. In flip-chip
implementation, thermal conduction is through the solder
bumps to the printed circuit board.
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Effects and Implications of Nonlinearity
• Linearity of the PA is important with certain modulation
schemes. For example, quite linear power amplifiers are
required to avoid spectral regrowth for filtered BPSK, QPSK,
OQPSK, and QAM signal.
• FM, FSK, and MSK modulation are typically constant
envelope and so allow the use of nonlinear high-efficiency
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• In this chapter, the various kinds of power amplifiers were
introduced, including the Class A, AB, B, and C linear
amplifiers as well as Class D, E, and F nonlinear amplifiers.
• The linear amplifiers have good linearity but poor efficiency,
on the contrary, the nonlinear amplifiers have very good
efficiency but poor linearity.
• For power amplifiers, the matching usually has to be power
matched than conjugately matched.
• Since the transistor in high power operation is usually with
high current and voltage, there are many practical
considerations should be taken into account, such as current
limits, breakdown, and heat problems.
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