Case Study Matching for RF Power Amplifier / Home


The S-parameters are only a good characterization for small signal circuits. Power amplifiers are very nonlinear and the S-parameters will depend on power level. Despite this S-parameters measured at the input port at the power level also used in the application are a very good starting point for the design of the input matching network. Even more critical is the output of an RF power amplifier. Power match based on small-signal S-parameters will result in highest small-signal power gain but for RF power amplifiers the output power itself and the power efficiency are much more important. So the question is: What impedance should be applied at the amplifier output to get a given output power with best efficiency? Many people are using an impedance tuner to search for the best match by hand. This will lead to a complete different design procedure then typical used in small-signal amplifiers! Also here with some theory a faster way is possible.

Let us consider a concrete design problem:

Design a matching network for a DECT power amplifier. The 1.9GHz digital European cordless phone standard allows 24dBm (250mW) at the antenna. In reality some loss occurs in the TX filter and antenna switch, so the PA should deliver app. 26dBm. When we want to use a balanced PA (with push-pull output stage) like the Infineon PMB6819 (low cost Silicon device with integrated system functions), we need a good match and a BALUN.

The output power depends also on supply voltage (due to P=Vrmsē/RL) and best efficiency (app. 45%) can be expected when the PA is deep in the compression. This is no problem because DECT uses GFSK modulation with constant envellope. The datasheet recommends a supply voltage of 2.4V (2 NiCd cells), so we can calculate the load impedance RL using the AdLab tool ANPASS (assume that the transistor saturation voltage is app. 0.2V).

Calculating optimum load resistance

Figure 1 : Calculating RLopt via ANPASS

The result is a reell value for the impedance (20W, so 10W for each side) which is not truly realistic with real world transistors and finite package inductances. So ANPASS delivers the correct value for an idealized PA in class-A operation (hints avalable on bubble help). For class-B operation used in the PMB6819 a higher value of RLopt is a bit better for higher efficiency (say 11W). Using CSERPAR we can start with the corrected value as the generator impedance and we can add the transistor output capacitance (app. 3pF) and the pin inductance (app. 0.8nH and a small package capacitance) by hand.

PA modeling in CSERPAR and matching network

Figure 2 : PA modeling in CSERPAR and the matching network to 35W. Note: The end capacitor has a series inductances of 0.7nH as a typical SMD component.

What we need now is a match from the transistor output to the BALUN. A BALUN transforms the differential PMB6819 output to a single-ended output (which is normally 50W). A BALUN can be designed using ANPASS. One open question ist the intermediate BALUN input impedance. Itīs a good idea to take an intermediate impedance value (say 35W) so that the match is distributed over the first matching network and the BALUN. This often gives the largest bandwidth and low tolerances.

BALUN design
Figure 3 : LC BALUN design using ANPASS

The resulting circuit is very close to what is shown in Infineonīs PMB6819 data sheet. Of course in reality some tweaking is always needed in 1.9GHz circuits due to component parasitics and modeling inaccuracies. Also the impedance at the harmonic frequency is noit unimportant due to large signal operation. This behavior is known as harmonic matching, but it is not easy to get advantage from this behavior at a GHz power amplifier.

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Copyright Đ 2001 Stephan Weber. All rights reserved.
Stand: April 22, 2001.