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Wideband high dynamic range CMOS variable gain amplifier for low voltage and low power wireless

J.K. Kwon, K.D. Kim, W.C. Song and G.H. Cho
A high frequency CMOS variable gain amplifier (VGA) employing a new gain stage cell is proposed. A design technique based on the proposed VGA enables enhancement of its operating frequency up to about 350MHz with a gain control range of 84dB. The power consumption of the VGA implemented using 0.18 pm CMOS standard process is about 3 mA at 1.8 V supply voltage.

Introduction: With rapid progress in such fields as wireless communication systems, the variable gain amplifier (VGA) is considered to be an indispensable key function for controlling the signal power level. The trend towards fully integrated wireless transceivers [ 11 for low power consumption makes it desirable to realise low voltage VGAs in CMOS technology. A wideband/high dynamic range VGA as IF amplifier is required in 3G mobile standards such as CDMA2000 or WCDMA, which may be based on super-heterodyne architecture with its advantages of high selectivity and high sensitivity. Most conventional CMOS VGAs employ multistage architecture and combine several gain stages with a gain control circuit to satisfy the specifications of radio communications [I-31. These VGAs compromise between bandwidth and gain control range; however, they do not focus on low voltage operation. It is difficult for a VGA cell with resistor load [2] to operate with comparable performance at low voltage since there is no more headroom for output voltage swing. In this Letter, a high frequency CMOS VGA employing a new gain stage cell is presented. It is designed with a current sharing bias scheme for high dynamic range and active load for wideband operation workable at low supply voltage such as under 1.8 V. Proposed VGA circuit: Fig. 1 shows a block diagram of the proposed VGA. It comprises an exponential function generator, a dB-linear gain controller and a gain stage block with output buffer. To obtain wide dynamic range, three stages with identical structure are cascaded and controlled externally.

sharing the bias currents and adjusting V,, simultaneously. In this new VGA cell, a constant current bias scheme with a PMOS differential pair (M9 and M10) provides and shares bias currents to the core of the VGA cell through the current mirrors depending on the control voltage. In this arrangement, the transistors M3 and M4 maintain constant bias currents irrespective of the control voltage Vc-,,, because the bias currents of the two transistors remain constant equal to the source current (Zs3) of the PMOS pair. Such a biasing is effective to obtain optimal performance in relation to the load and subsequent stages. However, for the input transistors MI and M2, the bias currents as well as V,, are changed simultaneously according to the control voltage, i.e. the VDsof the input transistors M1 and M2 are varied in the triode region according to the control voltage while sharing the drain currents with those through the transistors M7 and M8 to obtain wide variable gain. When the level of control voltage VC-,,,, is higher than that of a reference voltage VB, high gain is obtained with relatively small IIP3 but vice versa when Vc-,,, is lower than VB. With current sharing, this triode mode operation is suitable for low supply voltage design by avoiding DC voltage stack.




VC int

Fig. 2 Proposed VGA cell



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- 0


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gain controller

- -20

Fig. 1 Block diagram o proposed VGA f

- s d , ,

A new VGA cell is proposed as shown in Fig. 2. It has several features: (i) cascode structure for low distortion and wideband, (ii) constant current bias scheme for good linearity and high dynamic range, (iii) active load for wideband and low supply voltage operation. To achieve wide dynamic range, ITP3 is made to be large enough near the low gain range. To achieve this, input transistors MI and M2 are made to operate in the triode region when the control voltage Vc-i,t. is low, which is similar to the case of Song's VGA [2]. However in this case, wide dynamic range is obtained at low supply voltage by both

, , , , , , , , 1-30 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2.0 control voltage(Vc), V

Fig. 3 Gain variations and UP3 against gain control voltage (Vc)

Active load in this new VGA cell is obtained by combining two transistors, one current source and one capacitor. The nMOS transistor MI5 with current source I,, plays a role in providing low VDs on M13 to realise low voltage operation in a wideband. The capacitor C, works on boosting upper high frequency in relation to the transconductance of


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M15. In the high frequency region near the -3 dB frequency of the gain, the output impedance of VGA cell can be approximated as

1 GUO, C., et al.: A fully integrated 900-MHz CMOS wireless receiver with

z2 ,

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It shows that this active load effectively acts like an inductive load in the high frequency region. The effective inductance (Le,) of the active load forms a parallel resonance circuit associated with parasitic capacitance (C,) at the output node. Thus by adjusting the size of capacitor CI, it is possible to extend -3 dB frequency to a somewhat higher region by boosting the gain at high frequency.

on-chip RF and IF filters and 79-dB image rejection, I E E E l Solid-Slate Circuits, 2002, 37, pp. 1084-1089 2 SONG, w.C., OH, C.J., CHO, G.H., and JUNG, H.B.: High frequency/high dynamic range CMOS VGA, Electron. Lett., 2000, 36, (13), pp. 1096-1098 3 YAMAJI, T.,et al.: A temperature-stable CMOS variable-gain amplifier with 80-dB linearity controlled gain range, IEEE 1 Solid-state Circuits, 2002,37, pp. 553-558

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Comment Simple circuit model of small loop antenna including observable environmental effects
B.A. Austin
Moment method simulations show that the radiation efficiency of an electrically small loop antenna is in excellent agreement with long established analytical formulations. In addition, there is very good agreement with experimental data obtained by means of the Wheeler cap method. These results are in contrast to recently published claims regarding the performance of such antennas.
Introduction: The approach adopted in [I] appears to be entirely empirical and is not helped by unfortunate typographical errors. As a result, the conclusions reached regarding the characteristics of electrically small loop antennas appear to be flawed. The subject has been examined over many years but no reference is made to the extensive literature, of which just some is listed here [2-51. This previous work is of particular importance since these antennas are constrained in their performance by fundamental limitations and thus they constitute a special class of radiating structure characterised, generally, by low radiation efficiency and narrow bandwidth [6, 71. The former is of special significance, particularly when electrically small loops are to be used for transmission. Radiation efficiency is a function of the electrical dimensions of the loop, the material of which ii is constructed, the impedance matching network to which it is connected and the environment in which it operates. All are frequency-dependent. Since the intrinsic conductor loss of such an antenna is usually larger than its radiation resistance the intrinsic efficiency of the antenna is already compromised. Any additional losses as a result of coupling to its environment will only serve to reduce the radiaiion efficiency still further. To compound the problem its accurate measurement is by no means straightforward [8]. Therefore, the opening paragraph of [I] that over the HF 1.7-30 MHz frequency range loops with diameters of 0.8-1.2 m can have radiation efficiency of no worse than 90% is contested. No evidence is provided to justify this claim for an antenna, not constructed of superconducting material, the major dimension of which is less than 1% of the wavelength at that lower frequency limit. Loop current modes: In [l], and in previous work, the authors refer to fact that a second, or folded dipole, current mode also exists along with the conventional, uniform in-phase current around the loop. Hence one would expect to find the antenna producing two modes of radiation, each with its own characteristics. This is indeed true and has long been known, e.g. King [4] citing both [3] and [9]. Thus, when a single-turn perfectly conducting loop of radius b and of conductor radius a is in free space, and its perimeter is less than about &/3, we find, following King, that the radiation resistance due to the uniform current component is given by:


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frequency, MHz


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4 0-

-- .
10 100

frequency, MHz Fig. 4 Frequency characteristics of whole VGA V A implementation and measurement: The VGA is fabricated using G 0.18 pm CMOS technology. Its core area is 410 x 450 pm. It consumes 3 mA at 1.8 V supply voltage. Experimental results are shown in Figs. 3 and 4. The gain in dB has a linear function of external control voltage (Vc) with a range of 84 dB (-42 to +42 dB). It meets the requirement of the CDMA receiver [3]. IIP3 varies from -22 dBm at +42 dB (Vc= 1.8 V) to +20 dBm at -42 dB(V,= 0.0 V). This result is greater than those of others reported previously [2, 31, while having better linearity with smaller bias current. Fig. 4 shows the bandwidth up to 350MHz. There is an improvement of -3 dB bandwidth over 3 1% owing to the gain boosting technique.
Conclusion: A new CMOS VGA cell is proposed to achieve both high dynamic range and wideband at low supply voltage. A current sharing bias scheme with constant current improves the dynamic range and linearity. Wideband operation is also achieved using active load with gain boosting. The suggested VGA is considered to be suitable for an IF amplifier in highly integrated radio transceivers.

0 IEE 2003 Electronics Letters Online No: 20030516 DOI: 1O.I049/el:200305I6

24 March 2003

J.K. Kwon, K.D. Kim, W.C. Song and G.H. Cho (Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), 371-1, Kusong-dong, Yusong-ku, Taejon 305-701, Korea) E-mail: jkkwon@etri.re.kr K.D. Kim: Also at Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Republic of Korea ETRI, Republic of Korea
W.C. Song: Also with Analog Chips Inc., Republic of Korea

Ro =


where CO = J ( ~ , / E , ) E 12077 51 and ko = 277/&. If we write A = nb2 this is more readily recognised as Ro = 3 1 171A2/& a well-known result that is referred to as the traditional book formula in [I]. Kings analysis [4, 51 showed, in addition, that the dipole-mode current yields a radiation resistance equal to:



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