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GaN-based Microwave Power Varactors for Wireless Base Station Applications

Abstract

With the development of wireless communication systems, the demand for providing tunability in the wireless communication circuits becomes more and more intense. Among the technologies, semiconductor varactor is the critical component that is capable of implementing tunable and adaptive characteristics, particularly for the frond- end components of the wireless communication systems. For base station applications, high voltage handling capability, typically of 100 V or greater, high quality factor (Q), typically of above 100 at operation frequency, and high linearity, OIP3 > 65 dBm, are required. This work will mainly discuss in detail the design, fabrication and characterization to achieve the high-voltage high-Q and high-linearity microwave power varactors for wireless base station applications. Some preliminary varactor applications in the test tunable circuits will be demonstrated too. In this dissertation, we first introduce the physics of the semiconductor varactors and the motivation for choosing GaN as the candidate material for this microwave power varactor. Then we elucidate the critical design considerations for achieving high breakdown voltage, high quality factor and high linearity. The novel Schottky barrier engineered design using a thin InGaN surface layer on top of GaN to enhance the breakdown voltage of GaN-based Schottky diodes is therefore introduced. We then show the theoretical and experimental studies on the suppression mechanisms for electron tunneling in the InGaN/GaN Schottky barriers. The detailed material characterization for the InGaN/GaN material system and its application for the enhancement-mode HEMTs are also presented. Next, we discuss the initial device fabrication procedure and the improving methods based on the initial DC and RF measurement results. Thereafter, we report the detailed characterizations of the fabricated devices including the high-voltage I-V and C-V, S- parameters for 1-port and 2-port devices, linearity and application in the tunable resonant circuits. Finally, we summarize the dissertation and outline the future work. In this work, we achieved a high-performance GaN-based microwave power varactors with breakdown voltage > 100 V, quality factor > 100 and OIP3 > 71 dBm. It meets the initial goal of this project as well as the specifications in some practical applications. To the best of our knowledge, this combination of breakdown voltage, Q and OIP3 represents remarkable advancement from any other reported varactors

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