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Comprehensive Characterization and Modelling of Micro-wave Power HEMTs for Large-Signal Power Amplifier Design


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Comprehensive Characterization and Modelling of

Micro-wave Power HEMTs for Large-Signal Power

Amplifier Design

David Denis


, Ian Hunter


and Christopher M. Snowden


1University of Leeds, Institute of Microwaves & Photonics, School of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, LS2 9JT Leeds, United Kingdom

2 Filtronic Compound Semiconductors Ltd., DL5 6JW Newton Aycliffe, United Kingdom

Abstract — A comprehensive modelling approach is

ap-plied to the study of power pHEMT devices for high effi-ciency microwave and millimetre-wave power amplifier applications. The association of electromagnetic, physical and non-linear simulations has been applied for the first time to the design of high power microwave amplifiers. This research has provided insight into the operation of large transistors, allowing the contribution of individual FET fingers and cells to be investigated. This work has already demonstrated how the transistor structure contributes to the RF performance and enables the design of the transistor and embedding circuit to be optimised.


Increasing demand for high efficiency solid-state power amplifiers for both commercial and defence appli-cations has led to increased research focused on increas-ing power output and power added efficiency. Particular areas of focus are for mobile communications (up to 2.2 GHz), radar (up to 10 GHz), point to point communica-tions (7 to 56 GHz) and satellite communicacommunica-tions (mainly up to 30 GHz). In addition to the focus on developing better power transistors (Fig. 1), considerable effort has been devoted to examining high efficiency circuit con-figurations such as Class E and Class F. The non-linear design of both the circuit and device remain a challenge for this type of application. The work described in this paper is aimed at addressing some of these issues. At the present time there is very little research published for millimetre-wave power amplifier designs of this type.

This paper describes the application of a combined self-consistent simulation, incorporating electrical, elec-tromagnetic and non-linear models of a pHEMT power transistor and its embedding amplifier circuit [1-7]. This paper describes how this approach has been applied for the first time to the design of microwave and millimetre-wave power amplifiers, where the modelling work has been applied in conjunction with active load-pull meas-urements. Several power pHEMT structures and geome-tries have been analysed using this approach.

Fig. 1. Filtronic 150 mm power pHEMT

Our study combines an electromagnetic analysis with a physical analysis to predict the response of an entire power pHEMT device. It is based on its actual structure and fabrication parameters. Thus the modelling scheme adopted is an extrinsic - intrinsic (passive – active) divi-sion. This procedure has allowed the investigation of the role of geometrical dependencies and the internal opera-tion of multifinger pHEMTs on the RF performances of the amplifier. The electromagnetic simulation coupled to the physical device model (carrier transport equation based) [8] is used to predict the behaviour of the device for various gate widths [2-4], and identify the relative contributions of individual gate finger cells. Finally, this model is applied to the large-signal design of discrete and MMIC high power amplifiers, by coupling the electro-magnetic-physical model with non-linear circuit simula-tors. Most published work on electromagnetic simulation of FETs has been limited to very few cells (source-gate-drain finger combinations). The work described in this paper can be extended to address very large devices. A comparison with large-signal measurements is made, demonstrating the effectiveness of this approach.

GaAs AlGaAs InGaAs AlGaAs GaAs Source Drain Gate xd

Fig. 2. Channel geometry


The complete simulation of the device metallization using electromagnetic simulation has been previously used to predict the values of the parasitics with the total gate width of the device [2-4]. Coupled with the physical simulation based on a quasi-two-dimensional transport model, this approach permits an extension of the investi-gation to the channel geometry : the “active region”


scribed Fig. 2) and overall FET layout (finger width, spacings and manifolds). The benefits of electromagnetic simulation are that it not only permits the prediction of the behaviour of devices with various gate widths but also takes into account the influence of elements located near the active device and notably the source vias [2]. This method allows the extrinsic elements of the device model to be predicted and also gives the opportunity to investigate the behaviour of extrinsic parasitics using an extraction process similar to the cold FET technique [11]. The Momentum simulator from Agilent has been mainly used in this work. As an example of what can be achieved, Fig. 3 presents the values of some parasitics as a function of the number of fingers, and Fig. 4 as a func-tion of the gate-drain spacing. The use of the data ob-tained directly from the electromagnetic simulation pro-vides more information than is currently available using the equivalent circuit approach. In particular, the imme-diate environment of the device such as the source vias and the lateral coupling between fingers are accounted for as well as the distributed nature of the device, which are not easily taken into account using equivalent circuit models at higher frequencies.

35 40 45 50 55 60 65 6x150 12x150 18x150 50 100 150 200 250 Ld (pH) Cgd (fF) Cds (fF)

Fig. 3. Device extrinsic parasitics evolution with the number of fingers 40 50 60 70 1 2 3 4 555 60 65 70 75 Cgd (fF) Ld (pH) Cds (fF) xd (um)

Fig. 4. 6x150 um device extrinsic parasitics evolution with gate-drain spacing (xd)

The active regions of the device (Fig. 2) are simulated using the Leeds Physical Model [8-10], which is based on a hot electron quasi-two-dimensional pHEMT model. This physical model utilizes a quasi-two dimensional carrier transport description and includes thermal effects [12]. The input data is provided both from the process epitaxial wafer structure, cross-sectional geometry and allows single and double-recessed gates with delta and bulk doping. The model self-consistently solves the Pois-son, current continuity, energy conservation and two-dimensional Schrödinger equations for the device cross-section. The simulation is extremely fast and relatively

compact for application on personal computers. In the same way that the electromagnetic simulation is used to investigate the planar geometry of the device, the physi-cal simulation is used to study the channel region. An example of the application of the physical model is given Fig. 5, where the evolution of some small-signal equiva-lent circuit parameters is shown for variations in the gate-drain spacing of the power FET. The physical simulation is particularly valuable in characterising the non-linear behaviour of the active region when the device is oper-ated in a large-signal mode.

0.52 0.54 0.56 0.58 0.6 0.62 0.64 2 3 4 5 6 2.5 2.7 2.9 3.1 3.3 3.5 3.7 3.9 Cds (fF) Ri (:) xd (um)

Fig. 5. 150 um active cell small signal equivalent parameter evolution with drain-gate spacing (Vgs=-0.3, Vds=6 V)


The small signal parameters obtained for a 6x150 um (0.5 um gate width) pHEMT power FET are shown in Fig. 6. The physical model is used in the same way that experimental measurements would be used to character-ize the device for the non-linear simulations, with the added advantage of speed. This allows a straight-forward method of integration with CAD software. The whole modelling approach is currently applied to investigate the design of power amplifiers for microwave and millime-tre-wave applications, with specific interest in the scal-ability of the designs with increasing gate periphery to achieve higher power levels in a compact fashion.

S (1, 1) s im ula tion S (1, 1) m eas ur em ent s -10 -5 0 5 10 -15 15 S (2, 1) s im ulat ion S (2 ,1) m eas ur em ent s

Fig. 6. Measured and simulated S parameters 6x150 um device (0.8 to 40 GHz, Vgs=-0.3 V, Vds=6 V)


100 80 60 40 20 0 -20 ID [m A] 700 600 500 400 30 0 200 100 0 Phase [°] 0.1 0 .2 0.3 0 .4 0. 5 0.6 0.7 0 .8 0.9 0 .0 1 .0 0 1 00 2 00 -10 0 3 00 time, nsec mA

Fig. 7. Class F simulation and measurements : simulated active cell current at 2.1 GHz and load-pull measurements at 840 MHz

The results have been compared with non-linear active load-pull measurements performed at Cardiff University for the same type of device (Fig. 7). Careful examination of these load-pull measurements has confirmed the origin of the low-level slope and ripples seen on the current waveform of a class F amplifier, and the significant in-teraction between the source vias (equivalent inductance and resistance) and the multi-cell FET structure. This work has also revealed the non-uniform distribution of power handling between the cells of the power FET and provides a much greater insight into the internal opera-tion of the power devices. The power distribuopera-tion be-tween each finger is simulated both for the input power consumption and the individual contributions to the out-put power of each finger (Fig. 8). The individual dy-namic load lines for each cell and the voltage distribution between fingers have been investigated. This enables optimum output load to be explored as the number of fingers/cells is increased. In this way the design of the power amplifier and the design of the power FET interact to obtain the optimal output power and efficiency.

50 54 58 6 10 14 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pin (mW) Pout (mW)

Fig. 8. Simulated power distribution in a 8 finger pHEMT

These investigations are now extended to larger devices. Starting from an initial 6x150 um device with lateral vias, the gate width is increased by adding more fingers/cells. The Fig. 9 & 10 present the normalised output power and power added effciency at different frequencies. The only parameter altered between each maximum power added efficiency design, is the number of fingers/cells. 200 250 300 350 400 6x150 8x150 10x150 12x150 14x150 16x150 18x150 2 GHz 4 GHz 6 GHz Pout (mW/mm) :

Fig. 9. Normalized output power for devices with increased fingers/cells at different frequencies at PAE max

30 35 40 45 50 6x150 8x150 10x150 12x150 14x150 16x150 18x150 2 GHz 4 GHz 6 GHz PAE (%) :

Fig. 10. Maximum power added efficiency for devices with increased fingers/cells at different frequencies

The results shows a decrease in performance as the number of fingers/cells increases. The degradation is more pronounced as the frequency is increased too. As a result, it appears that the lateral vias structure is not the best suited to achieve higher power at higher frequencies. Closer investigations are currently being conducted to explore the cause of this behavior (intrinsic drain, gate and source voltages, non-linear interraction between fingers or device geometry).


A comprehensive approach, combining electromag-netic and physical device modelling with non-linear measurements that provides the freedom to fully investi-gate power pHEMT devices has been presented. Both the passive parasitics and the active region are characterized with geometrical and process parameters and the behav-iour of the full device predicted. This comprehensive investigation permits a better understanding of the inner operation of the power devices. These results are particu-larly useful when the various couplings and distributed


effects become significant in large power devices and at millimetre-wave frequencies.


The authors wish to acknowledge the support of EPSRC and Filtronic Compound Semiconductors Ltd, and the large-signal measurements from Professor Tasker’s group at the University of Cardiff.


[1] S. M. Sohel Imtiaz, Samir M. El-Ghazaly, “Performance of MODFET and MESFET: A Comparative Study Includ-ing Equivalent Circuits UsInclud-ing Combined Electromagnetic and Solid-State Simulator”, IEEE Trans. Microwave

The-ory & Tech., vol. 46, no. 6, pp. 923-931, Jully 1998.

[2] E. Larique, S. Mons, D. Baillargeat, S. Verdeyme, M. Aubourg, R. Quéré, P. Guil-lon, C. Zanchi, J. Sombrin, “Linear and Nonlinear FET Modeling Applying an Elec-tromagnetic and Electrical Hybrid Soft-ware”, IEEE

Trans. Microwave Theory & Tech., vol. 47, no. 6, pp.

915-918, June 1999.

[3] R. H. Jansen, P. Pogatzki, “Nonlinear distributed modeling of multifinger FETs/HEMTs in terms of layout-geometry and process data”, 21st European Micro-wave Conf., Ger-many, pp. 609-614, 1991.

[4] A. Laloue, J. B. David, R. Quéré, B. Mal-let-Guy, E. Laporte, J. F. Villemazet, M. Soulard, “Extrapolation of a Measurement-Based Millimeter-Wave Nonlinear Model of pHEMT to Arbitrary-Shaped Transistors Through Elec-tromagnetic Simulations”, IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory

& Tech., vol. 47, no. 6, pp. 908-914, June 1999.

[5] M.B. Steer et al., “Global modelling of spatially distrib-uted microwave and millimetre-wave systems”, IEEE

Trans. Micro-wave Theory & Tech., vol. 47, no. 6, June

1999, pp. 830 - 839.

[6] W. Heinrich, H. L. Hartnagel, “Wave Propagation on MESFET Electrodes and Its Influence on Transistor Gain”,

IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory & Tech., vol. 52 no. 1,

pp. 1-8, January 1987.

[7] D. De Zutter, J. Sercu, T. Dhaene, J. De Geest , F. J. Demuynck, S. Hammadi, C. W. Paul Huang, "Recent Trends in the Integration of Circuit Optimization and Full-Wave Electromagnetic Analysis", IEEE Trans. Microwave

Theory & Tech., vol. 52, no. 1, pp. 245-256, January 2004.

[8] Snowden, C.M., "Characterization and Modelling of Mi-crowave and Millimetre-Wave Large-Signal Device-Circuit Interaction Based on Electro-Thermal Physical Models", Proc. IEEE Int. Microwave Symposium, Denver, USA, pp. 155-158, June, 1997.

[9] R. Drury and C.M. Snowden, "A Quasi-Two-Dimensional HEMT Model for Micro-wave CAD Applications", IEEE

Transactions on Electron Devices, pp. 1026-1032, June


[10] R.Singh and C.M. Snowden, "Small-Signal Characterisa-tion of Microwave FETs based on a Physical Model", IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory and Techniques, IEEE

Trans. Microwave Theory & Tech., vol. 44, no. 1,

pp.114-121, January 1996.

[11] G. Dambrine, A. Cappy, F. Heliodore, E. Playez, “A New Method for Determining the FET Small Signal Equivalent Circuit”, IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory & Tech., vol. 36 no. 7, pp. 1151-1159, July 1988.

[12] C.M. Snowden, "Large-Signal Microwave Characteriza-tion of AlGaAs/GaAs HBTs based on a Physics-Based Electro-Thermal Model", IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory

& Tech., vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 58-71, January 1997.


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