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Software eases wideband RF down-converter system design

18 Jul 2013

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AWR Corp. has announced that its Visual System Simulator (VSS) system design software and Microwave Office circuit design software was used by consulting and design company ALCIOM to develop a wideband RF down-converter sub-system. The resulting sub-system is for a custom measurement instrument with strict instrumentation-grade specifications.

ALCIOM was challenged to develop a wideband RF down-converter sub-system for a custom measurement instrument with strict instrumentation-grade specifications. In particular, the down-converter was required to cover a wide bandwidth from 700MHz up to 6GHz, with stringent phase and amplitude stability constraints.

Due to these constraints, the design required a custom assembly of several frequency translations, filtering and amplifying stages (with no less than three intermediate frequencies). The design team kicked off the project by defining the overall system architecture, followed by modelling the system performances, focusing in particular on spurious rejection and frequency-response flatness. The team finished with circuit-level design and simulation of the custom microstrip filters and couplers used within the down-converter sub-system.

The solution
As a first step, VSS was used to create the high-level system diagram with close-to-ideal mixers, filters and amplifiers. This then enabled the team to validate the selection of the intermediate frequencies and overall gain and noise figure budgets allocated to each stage and finish with a specification for each of the sub-systems.

In the second step, actual components were selected utilising VSS, which enabled the team to refine each sub-system using real models (either behavioural models or S2P data fi les from component manufacturers) for each component. The custom microstrip filters and couplers in the down-converter sub-system were designed and simulated at the circuit level using AWR's Microwave Office. Because VSS and Microwave Office are seamlessly coupled within the AWR Design Environment, it was very easy to design the components at the circuit level and immediately integrate these designs into the system-level simulations of the complete down-converter sub-system.

The third step of the design project involved simulating and optimising each sub-system using VSS until they were close to the specifications. Figure 1 shows the VSS system diagram of a subpart of the first LO sub-system (8 to 13GHz).

Finally, after all the sub-systems where modelled, VSS was used to connect them together and validate that the overall system performance was in line with the strict specifications.

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