Development of a next-generation communication front-end evaluation board

Project framework:

Recently National Instruments has embraced the RF business to provide tools which allow RF engineers to address their challenges in an efficient way. As such today National Instruments provides a series of Vector Signal Generators, Vector Signal Analyzers, Vector Network Analyzers, high-frequency scopes, modulation toolkits and much more. Other innovative products such as the VST (Vector Signal Transceiver) which combines a Vector Signal Analyzer, a fully user-programmable FPGA and a Vector Signal Generator were recently introduced. Through its Network Analysis Center of Excellence, NI currently supports an eco-system of source- and  load-pull providers to address the needs of power amplifier designers who need to study the behavior of their components under different source and load conditions.

Project description:

Today mobile Power Amplifier (PA) evaluation boards mainly contain the RF front-end module, its bias circuitry and some control logic. In order to evaluate the potential of the module, an engineer is required to use a rather complex setup including source- and load-pull hardware to test the performance of the module under different conditions. Also, due to the physical distance between the PA and the load tuning, testing the module under modulation is almost impossible.

Description of innovativeness and innovative goals of the project:

The goal of the project is to develop a methodology, which will combine measurements and simulation techniques, to realize a new type of innovative but cheap evaluation board for a front-end communication chain which not only includes the PA, but also a lumped low-loss coupler and a tuning chip. Commercial tuning chips are available from companies such as WiSpry and Peregrine. The low-loss coupler allows to study the interaction between the PA and the tuning chip. The latter is digitally controlled by standardized protocols such as MIPI.

Expected deliverables and output at the end of the internship:

A first deliverable is the design, realization and test of an example of an evaluation board using AWR tools, which will be made available  The output of the project is a library that is made available in AWR for PA vendors to build this new innovative evaluation board at minimal increased cost instead of the classic evaluation board. The advantage for the PA vendor will be that the PA can be evaluated in almost realistic conditions dealing with the realistic signals and components that will be used in the design.


Yves Rolain
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