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Title:Lithium niobate RF-MEMS oscillators for IoT, 5G and beyond
Author(s):Kourani, Ali Essam Ali
Director of Research:Gong, Songbin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Gong, Songbin
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Cunningham , Brian; Schutt-Ainé, José; Zhou, Jin
Department / Program:Electrical & Computer Eng
Discipline:Electrical & Computer Engr
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Phase noise
Abstract:This dissertation focuses on the design and implementation of lithium niobate (LiNbO3) radiofrequency microelectromechanical (RF-MEMS) oscillators for internet-of-things (IoT), 5G and beyond. The dissertation focuses on solving two main problems found nowadays in most of the published works: the narrow tuning range and the low operating frequency (sub 3 GHz) acoustic oscillators currently deliver. The work introduced here enables wideband voltage-controlled MEMS oscillators (VCMOs) needed for emerging applications in IoT. Moreover, it enables multi-GHz (above 8 GHz) RF-MEMS oscillators through harnessing over mode resonances for 5G and beyond. LiNbO3 resonators characterized by high-quality factor (Q), high electromechanical coupling (kt2), and high figure-of-merit (FoMRES= Q kt2) are crucial for building the envisioned high-performance oscillators. Those oscillators can be enabled with lower power consumption, wider tuning ranges, and a higher frequency of oscillation when compared to other state-of-the-art (SoA) RF-MEMS oscillators. Tackling the tuning range issue, the first VCMO based on the heterogeneous integration of a high Q LiNbO3 RF-MEMS resonator and complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) is demonstrated in this dissertation. A LiNbO3 resonator array with a series resonance of 171.1 MHz, a Q of 410, and a kt2 of 12.7% is adopted, while the TSMC 65 nm RF LP CMOS technology is used to implement the active circuitry with an active area of 220×70 µm2. Frequency tuning of the VCMO is achieved by programming a binary-weighted digital capacitor bank and a varactor that are both connected in series to the resonator. The measured best phase noise performances of the VCMO are -72 and -153 dBc/Hz at 1 kHz and 10 MHz offsets from 178.23 and 175.83 MHz carriers, respectively. The VCMO consumes a direct current (DC) of 60 µA from a 1.2 V supply while realizing a tuning range of 2.4 MHz (~ 1.4% tuning range). Such VCMOs can be applied to enable ultralow-power, low phase noise, and wideband RF synthesis for emerging applications in IoT. Moreover, the first VCMO based on LiNbO3 lateral overtone bulk acoustic resonator (LOBAR) is demonstrated in this dissertation. The LOBAR excites over 30 resonant modes in the range of 100 to 800 MHz with a frequency spacing of 20 MHz. The VCMO consists of a LOBAR in a closed-loop with two amplification stages and a varactor-embedded tunable LC tank. By the bias voltage applied to the varactor, the tank can be tuned to change the closed-loop gain and phase responses of the oscillator so that Barkhausen’s conditions are satisfied for the targeted resonant mode. The tank is designed to allow the proposed VCMO to lock to any of the ten overtones ranging from 300 to 500 MHz. These ten tones are characterized by average Qs of 2100, kt2 of 1.5%, FoMRES of 31.5 enabling low phase noise, and low-power oscillators crucial for IoT. Owing to the high Qs of the LiNbO3 LOBAR, the measured VCMO shows a close-in phase noise of -100 dBc/Hz at 1 kHz offset from a 300 MHz carrier and a noise floor of -153 dBc/Hz while consuming 9 mW. With further optimization, this VCMO can lead to direct RF synthesis for ultra-low-power transceivers in multi-mode IoT nodes. Tackling the multi-GHz operation problem, the first Ku-band RF-MEMS oscillator utilizing a third antisymmetric overtone (A3) in a LiNbO3 resonator is presented in the dissertation. Quarter-wave resonators are used to satisfy Barkhausen’s oscillation conditions for the 3rd overtone while suppressing the fundamental and higher-order resonances. The oscillator achieves measured phase noise of -70 and -111 dBc/Hz at 1 kHz and 100 kHz offsets from a 12.9 GHz carrier while consuming 20 mW of dc power. The oscillator achieves a FoMOSC of 200 dB at 100 kHz offset. The achieved oscillation frequency is the highest reported to date for a MEMS oscillator. In addition, this dissertation introduces the first X-band RF-MEMS oscillator built using CMOS technology. The oscillator consists of an acoustic resonator in a closed loop with cascaded RF tuned amplifiers (TAs) built on TSMC RF GP 65 nm CMOS. The TAs bandpass response, set by on-chip inductors, satisfies Barkhausen's oscillation conditions for A3 only. Two circuit variations are implemented. The first is an 8.6 GHz standalone oscillator with a source-follower buffer for direct 50 Ω-based measurements. The second is an oscillator-divider chain using an on-chip 3-stage divide-by-2 frequency divider for a ~1.1 GHz output. The standalone oscillator achieves measured phase noise of -56, -113, and -135 dBc/Hz at 1 kHz, 100 kHz, and 1 MHz offsets from an 8.6 GHz output while consuming 10.2 mW of dc power. The oscillator also attains a FoMOSC of 201.6 dB at 100 kHz offset, surpassing the SoA electromagnetic (EM) and RF-MEMS based oscillators. The oscillator-divider chain produces a phase noise of -69.4 and -147 dBc/Hz at 1 kHz and 1 MHz offsets from a 1075 MHz output while consuming 12 mW of dc power. Its phase noise performance also surpasses the SoA L-band phase-locked loops (PLLs). The demonstrated performance shows the strong potential of microwave acoustic oscillators for 5G frequency synthesis and beyond. This work will enable low-power 5G transceivers featuring high speed, high sensitivity, and high selectivity in small form factors.
Issue Date:2021-03-30
Rights Information:copyright 2021 Ali Kourani
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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