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Power amplifiers (PA) are required for applications that need to deliver RF power to a load,

e.g. the final output stage of a transmitter might need to deliver anything from a few milli-watts

to many kilo-watts into an antenna.

For some types of modulation such as AM, SSB, QAM or CDMA, where the amplitude of the

modulated carrier is not constant, the whole transmission path including the power amplifier is

required to be linear. Hence power amplifier operation is confined to classes A or AB. For

other types of modulation however, such as FM, FSK or PSK where the amplitude of the

modulated carrier is constant, power amplifiers can use non linear modes such as class C.

An important consideration in RF power amplifiers is efficiency. In battery-powered portable

transmitting equipment, the PA typically consumes most of the power so achieving the highest

efficiency is important. Efficiency of an amplifier is defined as:

Average RF Output power into the load

Average DC power consumption from supply

Two basic steps in PA design are to bias the active device(s) to operate in the required mode

(Class A, B, C, etc.) and to design input and output circuits that provide a conjugate match and

hence optimise power transfer into and out of the device.

The conjugate matching networks described in a previous section can be used but in the case of

RF power devices, the input and output impedances are typically much less than 50 , possibly

of the order of 1 or less.

In a Class 'A' amplifier, the DC bias exceeds the total signal swing. The active device in a

Class 'A' amplifier is never driven into saturation or cut off (provided it is operating in its linear

region, i.e. not over-driven). The conduction angle is 360 of an RF cycle. Virtually all small

signal RF (and audio) amplifiers operate in Class 'A'.

A Class 'A' amplifier is linear and is therefore suitable for all types of RF signals whether

amplitude modulated or not, i.e. AM, SSB or FM signals. A significant disadvantage of Class

'A' is poor efficiency so that for an RF power amplifier, the active device needs to have a higher

power dissipation capability and more substantial heat sink compared to Class 'B' or 'C'. A

Class 'A' PA consumes more power than a Class 'B' or 'C' amplifier with the same RF output

power, which is an important consideration for battery powered equipment,

The maximum possible efficiency for a Class 'A' amplifier is 50%. This is with an inductor or

transformer as the collector or drain load for a BJT or FET, which would be true for almost any

practical RF power amplifier. This maximum efficiency is only possible when the amplifier is

driving the maximum possible amplitude into the load, i.e. just before 'clipping' occurs. This

means that for an RF power amplifier that is handling an amplitude modulated signal, (e.g. AM

or SSB), the average efficiency is much less than 50%.

In the case of a small-signal low frequency BJT amplifier (e.g. audio) with a resistive collector

load, it can be shown that the maximum efficiency is 6.25%.

Page 77

A Class B amplifier normally uses a pair of active devices in a 'push-pull' configuration. In

'pure' class 'B', there is no standing DC bias and the conduction angle is exactly 180 of an

RF cycle for each device, i.e. one device handles the positive half-cycles and the other device

handles the negative half-cycles. The efficiency is up to 78%. The amplifier is linear and is

therefore suitable for AM, SSB or FM signals.

In the case of Class 'B' RF power amplifiers (and early transistor audio amplifiers), a driver

transformer and an output transformer are normally used, as shown in the Class AB

amplifier below.

11.3 Class AB

In practice, a 'pure' Class 'B' amplifier suffers from 'crossover distortion' at the zero-crossing

points of the signal. To overcome this, a certain amount of standing DC bias is normally

applied, which results in Class AB operation where the conduction angle for each device is

more than 180 of an RF cycle but less than 360. A Class AB 'push-pull' amplifier is shown

below. It is similar to a Class 'B' 'push-pull' amplifier but T1 and T2 have forward bias provided

by R4.

Driver transformer TR1 matches the input source impedance into the input impedance of T1

and T2and it also acts as a phase-splitter so that one half-cycle of the RF waveforms is

handled by T1 and the other half by T2. Output transformer TR3 matches the output impedance

of T1 and T2 to the load impedance and also acts as a combiner, combining the two half-cycle

outputs from T1 and T2.

Class AB amplifiers may use a single active device or a pair of active devices in push-pull. Any

Class AB amplifier has sufficient forward bias applied to the transistor(s) to ensure conduction

for between 180-360 degrees of an RF cycle. This enables linear operation and improves

efficiency compared to class A.

The push-pull class AB amplifier shown below uses broad band transformer matching

techniques.

+Vcc

C2

R4

RFC

C1

INPUT

TR1

C5

T2

R2

TR2

TR3

OUTPUT to filter

R3 C7

T1

C6

Page 78

11.4 Class C

A Class 'C' amplifier can be used at RF but not for audio, It uses a single active device with

zero DC bias, as shown in the circuit below where the base of T1 is DC grounded via RFC1.

The conduction angle is less than 180 of an RF cycle. Amplifiers of this type are highly

efficient, typically 60 - 80% for 120 - 150 conduction angle but can only operate over a

relatively narrow bandwidth. This is because the collector load (L2, C2) needs to be resonant.

A Class 'C' amplifier is inherently non-linear and is therefore suitable for constant amplitude

signals such as FM only. In the circuit below, C1 and L1 match the source impedance (e.g.

50 ) into the input impedance of T1. RFC1 grounds the base of T1 at DC while providing

an RF impedance that is high compared to the input impedance of T1. RFC2 provides a path

for DC supply current to the collector of T2 while providing an RF impedance that is high

compared to the output impedance of T2. L2 and C2 form a resonant circuit and also match the

output impedance of T1 (typically a few ohms or less) to the required load impedance (e.g.

50 ). C4 is a DC blocking capacitor because the DC voltage on L2 is +Vcc.

C3

+Vcc

RFC2

L2

C4

OUTPUT

L1

C2

T1

INPUT

C1

RFC1

Note that if some forward bias is applied to T1 in the above circuit, by connecting RFC1 to a

DC bias source instead of to ground, the class of operation changes from Class C to Class A or

Class AB (depending on the amount of bias current).

A simple solution to PA design is to use a modular PA. These devices are available from many

manufacturers and provide a power gain block in a single module. Input and output matching

networks are included in the module to match to a specified impedance (usually 50 ). A PA

module can normally operate over a limited range of frequencies, for example a mobile phone

band. All that is needed is a power supply, some supply decoupling and filtering. A wide range

of power outputs are available and corresponding input drive levels are required. This type of

solution is compact and reliable but can be costly. The outputs of multiple modules can be

combined in cases where high power output is required.

Page 79

There are certain cases where an RF circuit element is non-linear.

Class 'C' RF power amplifiers are inherently non-linear but are only suitable for

transmitting signals whose amplitude is constant, e.g. FM or PSK. Although the nonlinearity generates harmonics, these can be reduced by low-pass or band-pass filtering at

the output.

In most other cases however, an RF amplifier is required to be linear but in practice, linearity

is not perfect. This can lead to the generation of unwanted harmonics and/or intermodulation

products. In a transmitter, such unwanted products result in spurious outputs, where some

power is radiated on frequencies other than the intended frequency. This can result in

interference to other users of the radio spectrum. In a receiver, such unwanted products result in

spurious responses, where the receiver has an unwanted response to signals on frequencies

other than the wanted frequency. It is therefore necessary to be able to analyse non-linearities in

linear RF amplifiers and to ensure that linearity is good enough for the required application.

An ideal linear amplifier gives an output that is directly proportional to the input:

Vo(t) = K.Vi(t)

Where

K is ideally a constant (but in practice, it may vary with frequency)

Vo(dB)

Vi(dB)

Page 80

Vi(f)

Vo(f)

KV

V

f

11.6.1

Non-linearities in amplifiers or RF systems can lead to second (and higher) order terms in Vi(t)

appearing at the output:

Where: K=system voltage gain (Av), X & Y are the distortion coefficients

Some terms may be absent or may be at an insignificantly low level. Consider the effects of the

2nd order term on the performance of the system shown below when a sinusoidal input is fed

into it:

Av=K

Vsin t

Vo(t)

hence Vo(t) = K. Vsint + X. V2sin2t

But Sin2 a = 0.5(1 - Cos 2a), hence........

Vo( t ) = K . V sin t +

or Vo(t) =

1

X. V2 (1 cos 2 t )

2

1

X. V2

+ K . V sin t X. V2 cos 2 t

2

2

Where:

XV 2

is a DC TERM

2

cos2t is the SECOND HARMONIC

KVsint is the WANTED OUTPUT

here, the input is a pure sinusoid but the system caused the distortion.

Page 81

Vi(f)

Vo(f)

KV

0.5XV

f

11.6.2

2f

Intermodulation distortion (IMD) is caused by the interaction of two or more signals in a nonlinear device or system giving rise to unwanted output signals called intermodulation

products (IMPs).

Consider a linear device such as an amplifier where two sine waves with equal amplitude are

fed into the system simultaneously so the input is of the form:

Vi( t ) = V sin 1t + V sin 2t

If the device is perfectly linear, the only frequencies present at the output will be the input

frequencies f1 and f2. If the device is non-linear however and it causes 2nd order terms to be

generated the output will contain the following components.

Vi(f)

XV

Vo(f)

2 KV

2

0.5XV

f1 f2

0

f1 f2 2f1 2f2

f2-f1

f1+f2

Depending upon the characteristics of the non-linearity, it may generate second order, third

order or higher order intermodulation products.

In the case where f1 and f2 are nearly equal, third order intermodulation products such as

2f1 f2 and 2f2 f1 are particularly undesirable because they fall close to f1 and f2 so they

cannot easily be removed by bandpass filtering.

What undesirable effects to IMPs have in transmitters?

Page 82

12 Passive Filters

A passive filter is a network of passive components designed to exhibit a specific frequency

response. Many possible topologies exist where the generic form of the transfer function is;

Vo

=

Vi

1

1 + j c

12.1.1

Bode Plots

If we plot the filter output voltage against frequency we can see exactly how the filter will

respond to a range of input frequencies. The axes can be either linear to obtain the linear

frequency response or logarithmic to obtain a bode plot.

The Bode Plot is a straight line approximation that requires a log-log plot, i.e. logarithmic

frequency axis and logarithmic amplitude axis. Normally, the amplitude axis has a linear scale

in Decibels, which are proportional to the log. of amplitude.

12.1.2

Roll-Off

Roll-off is a measure of how well the filter will reject frequencies outside the passband and is

defined as the slope of the bode plot of the response at fc. Roll-off is often quoted in dB per

octave where an octave represents a factor of two along the frequency axis. Alternatively, it

can be quoted in dB per decade where a decade represents a factor of 10 along the

frequency axis. Either way, the more poles (n) in the filter response, the steeper the slope and

the better the out of band rejection. Roll- off is approximately 20n dB/decade or 6n dB/octave.

12.1.3

A first order passive HPF has the characteristics shown below. The example shown has a cutoff frequency of 1 MHz.

Page 83

HPF roll-off is a measure of how well the filter will reject frequencies below the cut-off

frequency (fc). Roll-off in this case is defined as the slope of the bode plot below fc. We will

look at two ways of implementing this characteristic.

12.1.3.1

If we configure a resistor and capacitor as shown below, the reduction in capacitive reactance

(Z1= Xc) as we increase the input frequency means that less voltage is dropped across the

capacitor and so by KVL the output voltage must increase. Eventually, Xc = 0 and so Vo = Vi

thereafter - we have a simple HPF.

lg f

C

Vi

R

20lgVo(f)

Vo =

12.1.4

Vi

1 + 1 CR

Vo = Tan1 1 CR

fc =

1

2 CR

= CR

A first order passive LPF has the characteristics shown below. The example shown has a cutoff frequency of 1 MHz.

LPF roll-off is a measure of how well the filter will reject frequencies above the cut-off

frequency (fc). Roll-off is defined as the slope of the bode plot above fc.

Page 84

12.1.4.1

As the input frequency is increased above fc, the reactance of the capacitor is progressively

reduced, thus Vo is steadily reduced. As the frequency is decreased below fc, the reactance of

the capacitor progressively increases, thus less and less voltage is dropped across the resistor

and so Vo tends towards Vi.

lg f

R

Vi

C

20lgVo(f)

Vi

Vo =

1 + CR

12.1.5

Vo = Tan1 CR

fc =

1

2 CR

= CR

A BPF is a circuit where the attenuation is low within a defined range of input frequencies

(the PASS BAND) whilst outside the PASS BAND the attenuation is large. This type of

response is used widely to ensure that a system responds only to a wanted band of frequencies

but not to other higher or lower frequencies, for example tuned RF amplifiers in radio

transmitters and receivers.

A bandpass filter can be implemented in two different ways. First a high-pass filter and a lowpass filter can be cascaded. This is suitable for filters with a relatively wide passband.

Alternatively, a passive bandpass filter can be implemented using L-C resonant circuits.

Examples of both types are shown below for a generic BPF.

lg f

Vo(f)

f

20lgVo(f)

Cascaded LPF and HPF (Bode plot)

and frequency scales)

Page 85

12.1.5.1

Selectivity is the ability of the filter to select in-band frequencies and reject those out of band.

An indication of filter selectivity is obtained in the form of its Q-factor (Qo). Higher Q circuits

are more selective.

12.1.5.2

Resonant (tuned) circuits are widely used to obtain relatively narrow passbands for example in

radio frequency applications where we may wish to tune to a specific transmission and reject

adjacent channels.

C

Vi

L

R

Vo =

fo =

Vo(f)

f

Vo

Vi

1 + (L R ) (1 CR )

1

2 LC

Qo =

Vo = Tan1 (L R ) (1 CR )

oL

1

1 L

=

=

R

oCR R C

BW =

fo

Qo

At some frequency we can note that XL = XC hence VL = VC, since VL and VC are of opposite

signs the phasor sum will cancel, leaving all of the voltage across the resistor. This frequency is

Page 86

known as the resonant frequency (fo) at which the circuit is purely resistive giving zero

phase shift.

At frequencies below fo, the capacitor has more influence since XC > XL, the circuit is

predominantly capacitive and so we have positive phase shift.

At frequencies above fo, the inductor has more influence since XL > XC, the circuit is

predominantly inductive and so we have negative phase shift.

12.1.5.3

Two Pole LCR Parallel Resonant BPF (Tank

Circuit)

R

Vo

Vi

Vo(f)

Vo =

Vi

1 + [(CR ) ( R L)]

12.1.6

We noted generally, that the roll off of a filter can be increased if more poles are present in the

response. An ideal 'brick wall' filter has a perfectly flat passband and infinitely steep roll-off

but this requires an infinite number of poles and cannot be implemented in practice. Numerous

texts cover detailed filter design and many CAD packages offer simple facilities with which to

design higher order filters using Butterworth, Chebychev or Bessel polynomials.

A Butterworth filter response has a maximally flat passband.

A Chebychev filter response provides the highest possible rate of roll-off for a given order of

filter but it is necessary to accept a specified amount of passband ripple (e.g. 0.1 dB, 1 dB)

A Bessel filter has a linear phase response.

Multi-pole bandpass filters are an important building block in radio receivers, for example for

use in the IF or RF amplifier. Such filters are generally fixed frequency filters because it is not

generally practicable to vary the centre frequency of such a filter.

Page 87

12.1.6.1

The example below shows a 7th order Butterworth high-pass filter with a cut-off frequency of

900 MHz, designed using the Filter Design tool in TINA.

Highpass Filter

R6 50

C0 7.9p

C2 2p

C4 2p

C6 7.9p

Page 88

R6 50

L5 7.1n

L3 4.4n

L1 7.1n

U06

Out

12.1.6.2

The example below shows a 7th order Butterworth low-pass filter with a cut-off frequency of

900 MHz, designed using the Filter Design tool in TINA.

Low pass Filter

R5 50

L0 3.9n

L2 16n

L4 16n

L6 3.9n

Page 89

R6 50

C5 4.4p

C3 7.1p

C1 4.4p

U05

Out

12.1.6.3

The example below shows a bandpass filter designed using RFsim99. This has a 10.7 MHz

centre frequency and a relatively narrow bandwidth. This type of filter could be used as an I.F.

filter in a superhet radio receiver.

E.g. Butterworth BPF, fc = 10.7 MHz, BW = 25kHz

s 21

Arg s21

It should be noted that any filter needs to be designed to operate with a certain source and load

impedance, which normally needs to be resistive. This may be 50 in some cases but other

impedances such as 330 or 2 k may be used in crystal and ceramic bandpass filters for I.F.

amplifiers.

For an IF Filter, 4, 6 or 8 poles may be required in order to achieve a sufficiently sharp roll-off

outside the passband. It may not be practicable to implement such a filter design using

inductors and capacitors because the values of L or C or the required 'Q' factors may not be

practical. For example in the above filter design, the values of the capacitors are all less than

1 pF and the stray capacitance of the inductors would need to be extremely low.

Instead, such filter designs may require crystal or ceramic resonator elements. Such resonators

use piezo-electric materials such as quartz or Barium Titanate. For frequencies up to about 70

MHz, the mode of operation is a bulk acoustic wave. For higher frequencies such as 100 2000 MHz, the mode of operation is a Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW). SAW filters are used

for IF and RF bandpass filters in mobile communications equipment and other applications.

Page 90

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