LNAFIN Designs MMIC LNA Module for 40 GHz Application Using NI AWR Design Environment


Company Profile

LNAFIN Oy is a Helsinki based high-technology consulting company with an experienced staff of engineers who manage circuit design projects for large and medium-sized enterprises.

The Design Challenge

LNAFIN was awarded a European Space Agency (ESA) project to design a MMIC low-noise amplifier (LNA) for the 33-50 GHz Q-band of a satellite communication application. Designing a high-performance MMIC LNA is a complex challenge, requiring the use of many different design and simulation tools as well as highly technical skills in microwave and millimeter-wave frequencies. As space applications must be extremely sensitive, it is important to optimize the circuit for low noise figure (NF). Improvement in NF directly translates to increased bit resolution and sensitivity of deep space scanners.

On a practical level, the designers need tools to reliably model the waveguide, waveguide-to-printed-circuit board (PCB) transition, microwave discrete components, bond wires, and planar structures on the gallium arsenide (GaAs) substrate, as well as to DC-simulate to support biasing network design.

The Solution

LNAFIN chose the NI AWR Design Environment™ for this complex design because it offers an integrated environment of tools that can handle all the aspects of the design, from schematic to final electromagnetic verification, seamlessly and efficiently. At the core of the demanding MMIC amplifier design was the requirement to quickly reach project specifications for an initial proof-of-concept design. Simulation results of the MMIC LNA showed high gain and very low NF in the Q-band. The NF=1dB performance was achieved with better than -20 dB matching. Moreover, the extracted stability performance was very good.

This was especially appealing, since the results included large bonding-wire parasitics (1 nH) in the supply and bias chains. The design was based on OMMIC Foundry 70 nm metamorphic high-electron mobility transistors (mHEMTs) and used foundry models for different layout components. Satisfactory performance was very quickly reached starting from an initial design and tuning the circuit parameters with the Microwave Office tuner tool.

Why NI AWR Design Environment?

LNAFIN evaluated four competing solutions for its MMIC and RF design platform and chose NI AWR Design Environment (Microwave Office, AXIEM, and Analyst) software. Three reasons made this solution particularly compelling and included ease of use and integration of EM simulation, PDK availability and support, as well as local access to technical assistance by email, phone and in-person meetings.