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“Application of transit time effect in IMPATT diodes”

Ramjee Prasad





Introduction: IMPATT diode fabrication:

The IMPATT diode or IMPact Avalanche IMPACT avalanche transit time

Transit Time diode is an RF (IMPATT) diodes are well known for their
semiconductor device that is used for performance at frequencies extending into
generating microwave radio frequency the millimetre-wave range. Many radar
signals. With the ability to operate at systems have a need for high power
frequencies between about 3 and 100 GHz microwave sources in their transmitters
or more, one of the main advantages of that can only be addressed by the use of
this microwave diode is the relatively high IMPATT diodes .
power capability of the IMPATT diode.

The structure of the diode is shown below:

IMPATT diodes are used in a variety of

applications from low power radar systems
to alarms and many other microwave radio
applications. In fact IMPATT diodes are
ideal where small cost effective
microwave radio sources are needed. The
main drawback of generators using
IMPATT diodes is the high level of phase A fabricated IMPATT diode generally is
mounted in a micro wave package. The
noise they generate. This results from the
diode is mounted with its high – field
statistical nature of the avalanche process region close to a copper heat sink so that
that is key to their operation. Nevertheless the heat generated at the diode junction
these microwave diodes make excellent can be readily conducted away by the
signal sources for many RF microwave copper heatsink. Similar microwave
applications. packages are used to house other
microwave devices. Their small size and
light weight are advantageous in these IMPATT to the antenna is facilitated by
systems when compared with alternatives. integrating three diodes and three stubs
So far, monolithic millimetre-wave along one of the radiating edges. In this
IMPATT oscillators have been fabricated study, the antenna impedance seen by the
in GaAs, InP, Si, and SiGe processes. IMPATT diode was estimated by the
There is a variety of structures that are electromagnetic (EM) field solver Sonnet,
used for the IMPATT diode. All are while the impedance of the IMPATT diode
variations of a basic PN junction and was characterized by on-wafer
usually there is an intrinsic layer, i.e. a measurements in a standard CMOS
layer without any doping that is placed process .
between the P type and N type regions.
Typically the N type layer is around one or The fabricated IMPATT diodes are
two microns thick and the intrinsic layer generally mounted in microwave packages
between 3 and 20 microns. In the very to ensure that their performance is not
high frequency versions of the diodes the impaired by an inferior package. The
intrinsic layer will be very much thinner package itself is key to the performance of
and dimensions of only 0.5 microns are the IMPATT, especially as these devices
not unknown. may operate at frequencies of many tens of
GHz. For thermal reasons, the diode is
A variety of semiconductor materials are mounted so that its high field region
used for the fabrication of IMPATT around the junction is close to a copper
diodes. Silicon and gallium arsenide are heat sink area in the package. This enables
the most commonly used semiconductors, the heat generated within the device to be
although germanium, indium phosphide removed effectively so that it can run at its
and other mixed group semiconductors can rated power without the junction
be employed. temperature rising too high. Often the
package is coaxial in format so that the
Most IMPATT diodes are produced in correct transmission line properties are
discrete form and operated in external presented to the RF signal which may be at
circuits, limiting their widespread use in many tens of GHz. As a result the package
compact, lightweight, and low-cost is often quite intricate and accordingly
systems that require higher degrees of very expensive, especially when very high
integration. Recently, monolithic frequencies are used.
integration of lateral IMPATT diodes with IMPATT diode operation:
a microstrip patch antenna at 77 GHz has
been achieved in standard complementary In terms of its operation the IMPATT
metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) diode can be considered to consist of two
technology . This CMOS transmitter is areas, namely the avalanche region or
particularly appealing from a cost injection region, and secondly the drift
reduction and system integration region.
standpoint. In this work, the antenna is
designed as a radiator and a resonator at These two areas provide different
the same time to minimize the required functions. The avalanche or injection
chip area. In addition, a study of the effect region creates the carriers which may be
of different feed type and feed locations to either holes of electrons, and the drift
match the IMPATT impedance is region is where the carriers move across
presented. Such a topology reduces the diode taking a certain amount of time
parasitic losses, since no microstrip line is dependent upon its thickness.
necessary to connect the oscillator to the
antenna. At the same time, matching the
If a free electron with sufficient energy are found to be 180 degrees out of phase
strikes on silicon atom, it can break with the voltage. This results from two
covalent bond of silicon and liberate an delays which occur in the device: injection
electron from the covalent bond. If the delay, and a transit time delay as the
electron gained energy by electric field and current carriers migrate or drift across the
liberated other electrons from other device.
covalent bonds then this process can
cascade (avalanche) very quickly into
chain reaction producing a number of
electrons and large current flow in diode.
This phenomenon is called impact
avalanche. At breakdown, the n – region is
punched through and forms the avalanche
region of the diode. The high resistivity i –
region is the drift zone through which the
avalanche generated electrons move
toward the anode.

The IMPATT diode is operated under

reverse bias conditions. These are set so
that avalanche breakdown occurs. This
occurs in the region very close to the P+
(i.e. heavily doped P region). The electric The voltage applied to the IMPATT diode
field at the p-n junction is very high has a mean value that means the diode is
because the voltage appears across a very on the verge of avalanche breakdown. The
narrow gap creating a high potential voltage varies as a sine wave, but the
gradient. Under these circumstances any generation of carriers does not occur in
carriers are accelerated very quickly. As a unison with the voltage variations. It might
result they collide with the crystal lattice be expected that it would occur at the peak
and free other carriers. voltage. This arises because the generation
of carriers is not only a function of the
These newly freed carriers are similarly electric field but also the number of
accelerated and collide with the crystal carriers already in existence.
lattice freeing more carriers. This process
gives rise to what is termed avalanche
breakdown as the number of carriers
multiplies very quickly. For this type of
breakdown only occurs when a certain
voltage is applied to the junction. Below
this the potential does not accelerate the
carriers sufficiently.

Once the carriers have been generated the

device relies on negative resistance to
generate and sustain an oscillation. The
effect does not occur in the device at DC,
but instead, here it is an AC effect that is
brought about by phase differences that are
seen at the frequency of operation. When As the electric field increases so does the
an AC signal is applied the current peaks number of carriers. Then even after the
field has reached its peak the number of diode characteristics (particularly decrease
carriers still continues to grow as a result the reverse current and increase both the
of the number of carriers already in output and the diffusion length of the
existence. This continues until the field minority charge carriers) due to radiation-
falls to below a critical value when the enhanced processes.
number of carriers starts to fall. As a result
of this effect there is a phase lag so that the Introduction:
current is about 90 degrees behind the At present a number of technological
voltage. This is known as the injection procedures are known that enable to
phase delay. purposefully change the parameters of
device structures based on different
When the electrons move across the N+ semiconductor materials. Various methods
region an external current is seen, and this of gattering and structural - impurity
occurs in peaks, resulting in a repetitive ordering have been developed that can
waveform. improve the device structure parameters.
During manufacturing devices often
Practical operation accumulate various structural defects
generated in them during chip formation,
The main application for IMPATT diodes dissipative welding and/or thermo-
is in microwave generators. An alternating compression bonding. This results in both
signal is generated simply by applying a degradation of parameters in the finished
DC supply when a suitable tuned circuit is product and yield reduction. For such
applied. The output is reliable and devices the restoration of their properties
relatively high when compared to other poses a problem. Conventional heat
forms of microwave diode. In view of its treatment would not do in this case
high levels of phase noise it is used in because the annealing temperature is
transmitters more frequently than as a limited (as the contacts must not be fused).
local oscillator in receivers where the To apply other treatments, one has to know
phase noise performance is generally more with certainty the nature of the defect as
important. It is also used in applications well as the treatment peculiarities,
where phase noise performance is unlikely themselves neither of which is often taken
to be of importance. into account in practice. We did manage to
improve the parameters of silicon impact-
To run an IMPATT diode, a relatively avalanche and transit-time (IMPATT)
high voltage, often as high as 70 volts or diodes by -irradiation of _nished
higher may be required. This often limits production (packaged diodes) or generator
their application as voltages of this order units (IMPATT diodes in a cavity), both
are not always easy to use in some pieces with and without heat annealing. Such
of equipment. Nevertheless IMPATT treatments do not generate structural
diodes are particularly attractive option for defects, nor do they result in material
microwave diodes for many areas. compensation and widening of the space
charge region.
Effect of Ionizing Radiation on the Experimental Procedure:
Silicon IMPATT Diode Characteristics:
The diodes studied were fabricated using
We investigated 60
the effect of Co γ- boron diffusion from vapor phase into the
irradiation (doses from 102 to 2×106 Gy), n − n+ Si substrate (the charge carrier
both without and with heat annealing, on concentration in the n layer was (3 + 5) ×
silicon IMPATT diode parameters. It is 1016 cm−3). The reverse mesa diameter was
shown that such treatments improve the 5×10-3 cm, and the avalanche-breakdown
voltage VB was 19-20 V. The starting Pout = (ΔTw/ϵVB RT S1/2)2µ eff qB;
microwave output P* out did not exceed - -------- (1)
35 mW at operating current Iop = 100 mA.
The reverse branches of I −V curves were where ΔT is the difference between the
taken and the diffusion length of minority temperatures of the SCR and the ambient,
charge carriers Lp and output Pout were w is the SCR width, ϵ is permitivity of the
measured both before and after the diode material, RT is the diode heat
corresponding treatments. To treat the resistance, S is the p − n junction area, µeff
diodes studied we used 60Co –radiation is the effective mobility of charge carriers
(doses from 102 to 2×106 Gy, dose rate 3 and qB is the diode resistivity.
Gy/s), both with and without heat
annealing, at temperature T = 200-250 0C From Expression (1) it is evident that if w;
for 40-60 min. VB and qB remain constant, then the Pout
increase due to 60Co -irradiation may result
Experimental Results and Discussion: from changes in RT; S and/or µeff . Indeed,
the direct heat resistance measurements for
Shown in Figure are the dose the IMPATT diodes studied have shown
dependencies of the reverse current IR (at that RT was decreasing during γ-irradiation.
the reverse This results from the increase of the
bias VR = 0.9 V), diffusion length Lp and effective cross section area of the active
the relative change of the mean microwave region where heat dissipation occurred. In
output, Pout/P *out. One can see that both addition, the effective mobility µeff may
IR and Lp dose dependencies correlate grow as a result of the radiation-enhanced
with change of Pout/P*out change due to gettering due to a decrease in the number
60Co γ-irradiation. According to of scattering centers. The last statement is
circumstantially evidenced by the results
of direct electron-probe measurements of
the diffusion length Lp both before and
after -irradiation of test structures
fabricated from the same wafers that were
used to fabricate the IMPATT diodes
studied (see Figure, curve 2).

We have studied also the effect of the low-

temperature (T = 200-280 0C) annealing on
the output Pout and the reverse current IR
for the IMPATT diodes reradiated by the
Co -quanta. The corresponding results
are given below:

Dependencies of the silicon IMPATT

diode parameters on the absorbed dose of
Co γ-irradiation: 1- Reverse current IR;
2- Diffusion length of the minority charge
carriers Lp; 3- Output Pout.
Effect of 60Co γ-irradiation (without and In impact avalanche transit time
with heat annealing at 200 0C for 1 hour) (IMPATT) diodes fabricated in 0.18- m
on the Pout=P* out and IR=ISR ratios for standard complementary metal–oxide–
silicon IMPATT diodes. semiconductor technology to enable
operation at 77 GHz. The lateral IMPATT
Effect of the temperature of heat annealing diodes are integrated with a microstrip
(for 1 hour) on the Pout=PSout and patch antenna, modified to provide
IR=ISR ratios for 60Co -irradiated (dose of impedance matching and widen the tuning
5 _ 105 Gy) silicon IMPATT diodes. range. The antenna dimensions and the
impedance matching are designed using
the high-frequency electromagnetic field
solver Sonnet. The output spectrum has no
visible spurious components. The
transmitted power is 62 dBm at 76 GHz.
The measured frequency is within 1.3% of
the simulated value. It is hoped that this
device will find application in automotive
and communication systems.

Monolithic Integrated Millimeter-Wave

IMPATT Transmitter in Standard
Effect of the duration of heat annealing (at CMOS Technology:
200 0C) on the Pout=Psout and IR=ISR
ratios IMPACT avalanche transit time
(IMPATT) diodes are well known for their
for 60Co γ-irradiated silicon IMPATT performance at frequencies extending into
diodes (dose of 7 × 105 Gy) . the millimeter-wave range. Many radar
systems have a need for high power
microwave sources in their transmitters
that can only be addressed by the use of
IMPATT diodes . Their small size and
light weight are advantageous in these
systems when compared with alternatives.
So far, monolithic millimeter-wave
IMPATT oscillators have been fabricated
in GaAs, InP , Si , and SiGe processes.
Most IMPATT diodes are produced in
discrete form and operated in external
circuits, limiting their widespread use in
compact, lightweight, and low-cost
One can see that the low-temperature systems that require higher degrees of
annealing after 60Co γ -irradiation integration. Recently, monolithic
increases Pout as well. It should be noted integration of lateral IMPATT diodes with
that the above heat treatment of the non- a microstrip patch antenna at 77 GHz has
irradiated IMPATT diodes either resulted been achieved in standard complementary
in a decrease of the output Pout, or, at metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS)
best, did not change it. technology .
This CMOS transmitter is particularly carriers in crossing the drift region at
appealing from a cost reduction and saturated drift velocity. In order for the
system integration standpoint. In this diode to operate as a stable oscillator, the
work, the antenna is designed as a radiator negative conductance of the diode must
and a resonator at the same time to decrease with increasing RF voltage. The
minimize the required chip area. RF voltage across the diode will grow until
the admittance of the diode is balanced by
In addition, a study of the effect of the admittance of the microwave circuit.
different feed type and feed locations to Lateral IMPATT Diode:
match the IMPATT impedance is
presented. Such a topology reduces The cross section of the lateral IMPATT
parasitic losses, since no microstrip line is diode as shown in fig.. The diode has a
necessary to connect the oscillator to the single drift region. The p , n, and n regions
antenna. At the same time, matching the of the IMPATT diode are implemented
IMPATT to the antenna is facilitated by using standard source/drain, n-well, and
integrating three diodes and three stubs ohmic contact diffusion regions,
along one of the radiating edges. respectively. The impedance of the diode
is measured up to 110 GHz by means of a
vector network analyzer (VNA) connected
to a CASCADE wafer prober. To
minimize the influence of the
measurement setup on the diodes, a
constant VNA output power of 20 dBm is
used. The Smith chart in Fig. 3 provides
the reflection coefficient prior to
deembedding. At certain frequencies, it
becomes greater than 1, as needed to
In this study, the antenna impedance seen enable oscillation. With open and short
by the IMPATT diode was estimated by structures, the impedance of the parallel
the electromagnetic (EM) field solver and series parasitics are estimated to allow
Sonnet, while the impedance of the deembedded measurements of diode
IMPATT diode was characterized by on- impedance.
wafer measurements in a standard CMOS

A necessary condition for steady-state
oscillation is a zero sum for the circuit and
device impedances at the steady-state
operating point. The microwave negative
resistance of an IMPATT diode arises out
of a phase difference between the RF
voltage and RF current. This phase
difference is produced by the lagging RF
current generated in the space charge layer
with respect to the applied RF voltage. CONCLUSION:

The time delay inherent in the build up of A monolithic integrated IMPATT

the avalanche current is augmented by the transmitter built in standard CMOS
transit delay experienced by the charge technology and operating in the
millimetre-wave range has been
investigated experimentally. Using a patch active elements for use in millimetric
antenna driven by a lateral IMPATT diode, pulsed-mode generators. Semiconductor
the 4-mm transmitter delivers a radiated structures suitable for fabrication of
power of 62 dBm at 76 GHz. By using this continuos-mode IMPATT diodes have
particular configuration, area requirements been well known for a long time.They
and parasitic losses of the integrated have been utilized successfully in many
transmitter are reduced. Because of the applications in microwave engineering.
cost efficiency and the robustness of The possibilities of using the same
standard CMOS manufacturing, this type structures for pulsed-mode microwave
of monolithic integrated transmitter may generators are very interesting because the
be well suited for use in millimetre-wave pulsed-mode IMPATT-diode generators
systems for various applications ranging can successfully operate at high current
from communications to automobile densities without deterioration of
anticollision radar systems. reliability.

COMPLEX NONLINEAR MODEL The cross section of the pulsed-mode

FOR THE PULSED-MODE IMPATT IMPATT diode may be larger than that of
DIODE: continuous-mode diodes. Therefore, a
pulsed-mode oscillator can provide a
INTRODUCTION larger output power. Considering that the
increase of the output power of millimetric
A complex nonlinear model for high- generators is one of the main problems of
power pulsed IMPATT diode oscillator microwave electronics it is important to
analysis is presented. This model is optimize the diode's active layer to obtain
suitable for the analysis of different the generator's maximum output power.
operational modes of the oscillator. It takes
into account the main electrical and One of the main problems in the operation
thermal phenomena in the semiconductor of high-power IMPATT-diode pulsed-
structure and the functional dependence of mode generator is the large variation of the
the governing equations' coefficients on diode's admittance during the pulse. This
the electrical field and temperature. The variation is significant during each current
temperature distribution in the pulse due to the temperature change in the
semiconductor structure is obtained using diode's semiconductor structure.
the special thermal model of the IMPATT
diode, which is based on the numerical Therefore, diffusion coefficients,
solution of the non-linear thermal ionization rates and charge mobility
conductivity equation. The complex model experience large variations during the
presented in this work can be applied for pulse. These changes strongly affect the
the practical design of pulsed-mode amplitude and phase of the first harmonic
millimetre IMPATT diodes. It can also be of the diode's avalanche current.
utilized for diode thermal regime Therefore, the admittance value also
estimation, for the proper selection of changes. This results in the instability of
feed-pulse shape and amplitude, and for the generator's output power and frequency
the development of complex doping- within each generated microwave pulse.
profile high-power pulsed millimetric Pulsed-mode IMPATT diodes that are
IMPATT diodes with improved utilized in microwave electronics are, most
characteristics. frequently, single drift and double-drift
structures similar to continuous-mode ones
IMPATT (IMPact Avalanche ionization . The typical diode structure is shown in
and Transit Time) diodes are principal the Fig. 1 by curve 1; where N is the
concentration of donors and acceptors and curve 2. This type of semiconductor
l is the length of the diode active layer. In structure can be named a quasi-Read-type
this type of diode, the electrical field is structure. This type of doping profile
strongly distorted when the avalanche provides a concentration of the electrical
current density is sufficiently high. This field within the p-n junction. This measure
large space charge density is one of the helps to decrease the destruction of the
main reasons for the sharp electrical field avalanche space charge and therefore
gradient along the charge drift path. permits an improvement of the phase
Because of this field gradient, the space stability between the diode current and
charge avalanche ruins itself and voltage. Historically, many analytical and
consequently the optimum phase relations numerical models have been developed for
degrade between the microwave potential the various operational modes of IMPATT
and the current. This factor is especially diodes. However, they are not adequate for
important when the IMPATT diode is fed very high current density values and
at the maximum current density, which is different temperature distributions inside
exactly the case for pulsed-mode the structure, which is exactly the case for
operation. the pulsed-mode IMPATT diode oscillator.
For this reason, we have developed a new
The idea to utilize a complex doping complex numerical model of the IMPATT
profile semiconductor structure for a diode that is composed of the advanced
microwave diode was originally proposed thermal model and the modified local-field
in the first analysis of IMPATT diodes by model. The thermal model provides the
Read [6]. This proposed ideal structure has exact theoretical temperature distribution
never been realized till now. However, along the diode active region. The local-
modern field electrical model calculates the
functional dependence of equation
coefficients from the electric field and the
temperature, and using all these data
finally derives the IMPATT diode
dynamic characteristics.

semiconductor technology provides new electronics.com/info/data/semicond/imp
possibilities for the fabrication of sub att/impatt-diodes.php
micron semiconductor structures with 5.http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/1981eea
complex doping profiles. This stimulates p.conf..565S
the search for IMPATT-diode special 6.http://www.microwaves101.com/encyc
structure optimization for pulsed-mode lopedia/diodes_IMPATT.cfm
operation. 7.journals.tubitak.gov.tr/physics/issues/f
The proposed new type of IMPATT diode 8.www.sersc.org/journals/IJAST/vol16/2
doping profile is shown in Fig. 1 by the .pdf