RF Design for High System Integration

The Research Unit 3 of the University of Pavia (RU3) is associated with the Department of Electronics. The main expertise areas include low noise circuits and wireless transceiver circuits. Two groups, belonging to different laboratories within the Electronics Department, will be working jointly in RU3:

  • The Microelectronics Laboratory Group coordinated by prof. R. Castello
  • The Instrumentation Laboratory Group coordinated by prof. V. Speziali

The Microelectronics Laboratory Group has a long experience in the field of analog and radio-frequency (RF) circuit design, where it has been active since 1995. The Group has gained expertise in conceiving, designing, and testing of complete RF receivers and transmitters, as well as sub-systems and individual blocks, including Low Noise Amplifiers (LNAs), mixers, Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCOs), frequency synthesizers, etc. Contributions have been given also in the analysis and optimization of passive RF components (inductors and varactors). Several programs have been carried on both in the framework of European Projects (ESPRIT and MEDEA), Italian FIRB Projects and other Italian Projects (PRIN, Madess II). Research has also been supported by Research Contracts directly funded by major semiconductors companies such as ST-Microelectronics, Mindspeed Technologies, Agere Systems (formerly Bell Labs - Lucent Technologies) and National Semiconductors. The Microelectronics Laboratory is equipped with advanced CAD tools for the design, layout and verification of monolithic integrated circuits. Through the years, the Group has set up a Measurement Laboratory, equipped with a state-of-the-art measurement equipment. The facility includes spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, arbitrary waveform generators, vector-network analyzers, millimeter-wave signal generators, impedance meters, vector-signal generators and a clean room featuring a probe station. In the field of CMOS integrated circuits, the Group has gained international recognition as confirmed by the awards for technical contributions received by members of the Group from IEEE Conferences (VLSI) and Journals (JSSC). The Microelectronics Group coordinator, Prof. Rinaldo Castello, is the scientific coordinator of the FIRB Project “Enabling Technologies for Wireless Reconfigurable Terminals”, funded with 12,5 millions Euro by the Italian Ministry of Education and Research.
In this project the Microelectronics Group will be responsible for the design of advanced RF systems (WP1, Task 1.4). In this field the Group will perform basic research in the analysis, design and experimental verification of an high efficiency transmitter for new generation (beyond 3G) cellular applications. Several efficiency enhancement techniques will be compared, including Dynamic Biasing, LINC and Doherty, and the most advantageous one will be selected. Afterwards an integrated transmitter, including the power stage, will be designed according to the selected technique in Bipolar or CMOS technology. The reference benchmark will be the UMTS standard in power class 3. A possible extension will involve WLAN applications, such as IEEE 802.11a/g and WiMax (IEEE 802.16) standards. The Microelectronics Group will also be responsible for the design RF Bodynet and RFID (WP1, Task 1.5). In this framework highly integrated transceiver solutions will be explored for very low power applications in the ISM frequency band (2.4GHz). The target will involve power dissipation and area consumption reduction through functional reuse of circuit elements and blocks. The study will involve both the receiver front-end and the complete transceiver. An ad hoc standard for very low power, low bitrate personal communications will be studied.
The Electronic Instrumentation group is particularly concerned with the design and characterization of low noise, analog (charge preamplifiers, shaping filters, discriminators) and mixed signal circuits for radiation detectors. In the last decade it has been involved in the design of front-end electronics in submicron and deep submicron CMOS technologies for high granularity detectors (microstrips, pixels). In this field, the group has been collaborating with research teams from world renowned centers, like the CERN in Geneva, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkley, USA, and the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, USA and has a long-standing partnership with the INFN (Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare). Recently the group has started an R&D activity on monolithic active pixel sensors (MAPS) in CMOS technology, whose features are supposed to comply with the experiment specifications at the future high luminosity colliders. Another field of interest of the group is the experimental characterization of innovative technologies (deep submicron CMOS, SOI BiCMOS, JFET on high resistivity substrate), particularly focused on their noise properties. In this field the group has been collaborating with industrial partners (STMicroelectronics) and national research institutions (ITC-Irst, Trento). The development of interface amplifiers for single device noise power spectral density measurements is closely related to the above described activity. The group is also involved in the study of radiation damage in devices and circuits for spatial and high energy physics applications. For their research activity, the members of the Electronic Instrumentation group can take advantage of a fully equipped laboratory for design, simulation and layout of integrated circuits (SUN and Linux workstations, CADENCE working environment and the relevant design tools), for the experimental characterization of devices and circuits (spectrum analyzers, oscilloscopes, arbitrary waveform generators, pattern generators, logic analyzers, semiconductor parameter analyzers, impedance meters), and for the development of test boards.
In this project, the Instrumentation Group will be responsible, in the framework of Unit 3 (Task 1.6), for the experimental verification of noise model in sub-100 nm CMOS technologies. Moreover, the Group will be involved in the design and characterization of test structures including analog and mixed-signal circuits, with particular emphasis on their noise properties. Finally, it will be concerned with the characterization of CMOS devices and circuits in view of radiation tolerant applications.

Rinaldo Castello (coordinator)
Danilo Manstretta
Carla Vacchi
Valeria Speziali
Lodovico Ratti