Greg Baker

One Size Fits All. Prix Fixe Menus. Assigned Seating. These rigid conditions do not work in the RF/microwave industry. When it comes to developing the highest performance, most reliable, yet cost-effective products for leading-edge applications, design engineers need and want options. Custom Tailoring. A La Carte. Special Seat Selection. Yes, these are the conditions for today’s design engineers.

Traditionally, for high frequency applications 10 GHz and above, Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) has been considered the best overall material and technology to use to achieve the desired and required performance for next generation’s RF/microwave systems. With recent ground-breaking advances by companies such as NXP, however, enhancements to more traditional, high-volume silicon processes such as Silicon Germanium (SiGe) give design engineers expanded options to achieve their design goals.

NXP has developed a carbon-doped SiGe (SiGe:C) BiCMOS process (called QUBiC4xi) that delivers high power gain, low noise figure, and excellent dynamic range to address the industry’s growing demand for more options when it comes to high performance, reliable and highly integrated semiconductor devices. QUBiC4xi is specifically designed to meet the needs of high frequency applications up to 30 GHz in the wireless, broadband communications, networking and multimedia markets. With multiple process nodes available, QUBiC4 allows optimal technology selection based on functionality, integration, and performance requirements.

NXP’s state-of-the-art QUBiC4 technology offers alternatives to GaAs by achieving comparable or better linearity, lower DC power consumption, immunity against out-of-band signals, spurious emission performance and comparable output power. Available since 2002, QUBiC4 continues to evolve to meet today’s system performance by accomplishing the most demanding RF requirements. This extensively tested high-volume process that is widely deployed in the field offers consistent parametric RF performance and reliability from wafer-to-wafer and lot-to-lot.

Engineers can select from two options from NXP. The first QUBiC4X is ideal for up to 30 GHz systems (Ft = 137 GHz) with 2.5 V breakdown voltage and ultra low noise applications (NF < 0.8 dB at 10 GHz). Secondly, QUBiC4Xi, NXP's latest SiGe:C process, offers improved Ft (> 200 GHz) with 1.4 V breakdown voltage and even lower noise figure (NF < 0.5 dB at 10 GHz) for applications beyond 30 GHz.

Last year NXP launched nearly 50 new products based on the SiGe:C process, including low noise amplifiers, medium power amplifiers, LO generators, 6th and 7th generation wideband transistors, and variable gain amplifiers. Applications for these QUBiC4-based products range from mobile platforms, personal navigation devices, AESA radars, satellite DBS/-VSAT, e-metering, software-defined radios (SDR), base stations, point-to-point radio links, and WLAN, where high frequency and high integration levels are essential.

Engineers can now benefit from expanding options which offer GaAs-equivalent performance with numerous integration options of digital and high performance analog and RF functions, enabling more functionality into less space. Devices having smaller footprints also mean more competitive costs, and adding and increasing functionality on a single chip improves reliability, giving significant manufacturing advantages. Engineers also get all the benefits of silicon manufacturing advantages, meaning competitive cost, performance consistency, and superb reliability to meet the demanding requirements of today’s leading-edge applications.

More on NXP’s SiGe:C process