Low Noise Amplifiers using highly strained InGaAs/InAlAs/InP pHEMT for implementation in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA)

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Muammar Mohamad Isa


The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a multibillion and a multinational science project to build the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescope. For a very large field of view, the combined collecting area would be one square kilometre (or 1, 000, 000 square metre) and spread over more than 3,000 km wide which will require a massive count of antennas (thousands). Each of the antennas contains hundreds of low noise amplifier (LNA) circuits. The antenna arrays are divided into low, medium and high operational frequencies and located at different positions to boost up the telescope's scanning sensitivity.The objective of this work was to develop and fabricate fully on-chip LNA circuits to meet the stringent requirements for the mid-frequency array from 0.4 GHz to 1.4 GHz of the SKA radio astronomy telescope using Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit technology (MMIC). Due to the number of LNA reaching figures of millions, the fabricated circuits were designed with the consideration for low cost fabrication and high reliability in the receiver chain. Therefore, a relaxed optical lithography with Lg = 1 µm was adopted for a high yield fabrication process.Towards the fulfilment of the device's low noise characteristics, a large number of device designs, fabrication and characterisation of InGaAs/InAlAs/InP pHEMTs were undertaken. These include optimisations at each critical fabrication steps. The device's high breakdown and very low gate leakage characteristics were further improved by a combination of judicious epitaxial growth and manipulation of materials' energy gaps. An attempt to increase the device breakdown voltage was also employed by incorporating Field Plate structure at the gate terminal. This yielded the devices with improvements in the breakdown voltage up to 15 V and very low gate leakage of 1 µA/mm, in addition to high transconductance (gm) characteristic. Fully integrated double stage LNA had measured NF varying from 1.2 dB to 1.6 dB from 0.4 GHz to 1.4 GHz, compared with a slightly lower NF obtained from simulation (0.8 dB to 1.1 dB) across the same frequency band.These are amongst the attractive device properties for the implementation of a fully on-chip MMIC LNA circuits demonstrated in this work. The lower circuit's low noise characteristic has been demonstrated using large gate width geometry pHEMTs, where the system's noise resistance (Rn) has successfully reduced to a few ohms. The work reported here should facilitate the successful implementation of rugged low noise amplifiers as required by SKA receivers.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2013