The pictures show the layout (left) and assembled die (right) of a voltage controlled amplifier (VGA) based on a 0.5mm SiGe BiCMOS process, for operation at 1.8GHz to 2.5GHz and which achieves an 80dB gain range at 1.85GHz.
The department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at UCC has a strong tradition of research in the areas of microwave and RF dating back to the foundations of the department. The early microwave research in the department was concentrated on satellite communications systems, microwave propagation studies and the use of microwaves as an analysis tool in high-energy physics. With the rapid growth in personal and wireless communications, the research focus shifted to these areas and the department undertook a wide range of research projects in the area of mobile and wireless communications. Much of this research concerned the design and optimization of individual transceiver blocks such as Low Noise Amplifiers (LNAs), Power Amplifiers (PAs) and frequency synthesizers as well as characterization and modeling of these blocks using advanced CAD tools. In many cases these research projects were based on discrete high-frequency components such as MESFETs or HEMTs. As the RF industry has now moved substantially from the use of discrete devices to high-density integrated circuits (ICs) the research focus has also moved to design and modeling at the IC level, mainly based on standard CMOS or SiGe foundry processes.
Recent research has concentrated on the design of RF ICs such as used for UltraWideband Communications, the use of RF techniques for the characterization of high-k thin film materials, and the development of techniques for automatic tuning (matching) of small antennas for wireless sensor nodes, the last two activities being in collaboration with researchers at the Tyndall National Institute. Recent research has also focused on the design of integrated DC-DC converters for use in mobile and portable devices and this has been undertaken in collaboration with researchers from the Power Electronics Group in the Electrical Engineering Department as well as researchers from the Tyndall National Institute.