Analog/Mixed Signal

Researchers develop MMIC for direct RF signal processing

10 December 2021
The TRAFFIC chip placed on a printed circuit board for analog and mixed-signal applications. Source: GTRI

Researchers at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) have developed a general-purpose, high-performance monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) for direct filtering and processing of radio frequency signals.

The MMIC, called Transversal Radio Frequency Filter Integrated Circuit (TRAFFIC), is targeted at specialized applications with small form factors, weight restrictions and power budgets.

The chip has demonstrated a fully reconfigurable 10-to-1 analog finite impulse response (FIR) filter for tunable filtering across a wide band of frequencies from 2 to 20 GHz. Using silicon-germanium (SiGe) technology, TRAFFIC is designed for high-frequency performance of mixed-signal and analog IC designs.

The IC was created on a 250 GHz, 130 nm SiGe bipolar CMOS platform and manufactured by GlobalFoundries, a semiconductor pure-play foundry.

The Georgia Tech team has demonstrated TRAFFIC as a front-end reconfigurable filter and is testing the technology as an analog signal conditioner within a self-interference canceling system.

“TRAFFIC is really about putting more of the functionality closer to the aperture,” said Doug Denison, director of the Advanced Concepts Laboratory at the GTRI. “Doing that potentially reduces size, weight, power and also cost, while lowering latency through the system and relieving some of the burden on digital components.”

Filtering of unwanted signals before it enters digital signal processing can improve a system’s ability to process low-power signals of interest and preserve the dynamic range of incoming signals.

TRAFFIC can perform processing like field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) as TRAFFIC is highly reconfigurable, allowing it to be flexible to designs. It allows the device to be put close to antennas and integrated into small form factors.

Another feature is because it is based on SiGe technology, the wideband capabilities allow aperture data to be directly analyzed without sampling.

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