ECE 5220 Radio Frequency Integrated Circuit (RFIC) Technology and Design | ECE | Virginia Tech


Course Information


Integrated circuit (IC) implementation of RF circuits for wireless communications applications. Transceiver architectures for cuurent wireless communications standards; active/passive device technologies for RFIC implementations; low noise amplifiers; mixers; frequency sources; power amplifiers; single-chip radios; and RFIC packaging and testing. Case studies of modern RFIC chip sets for current wireless communciations standards are examined. The course involves circuit design at the IC level; modern RF/microwave CAD software will be used in conjunction with the course. Design of a wireless transceiver functional block component RFIC chip.

Why take this course?

The rapid expansion of untethered (wireless) communications services - paging, RF identification (RFID), analog and digital cellular telephony, Personal Communications Services (PCS), etc. - over the last ten years has led to an explosion in the development of integrated circuit approaches in the RF/microwave area. Highly integrated RF components, such as upconverters and downconverters, low-noise and power amplifiers, and frequency synthesizers, are now commonplace, replacing hybrid circuits employing discrete semiconductor devices. Current applications are concentrated in the UHF at frequency bands around 900 MHz and 1.8 GHz; future frequency allocations for communications systems are expected in the low microwave bands around 2.4 and 5.8 GHz. These RF integrated circuits (RFICs) are packaged together with VLSI digital signal processing and microprocessor control chips on printed circuit boards (PCBs) or in advanced multichip modules (MCMs). On the horizon are so-called mixed signal integrated circuits in which RF, low-frequency analog and digital functions are integrated on the same chip, setting the stage for single chip "VLSI radios." The Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is an established leader in wireless communications research and education. Senior undergraduate and graduate students can currently gain exposure to radio engineering (based on discrete devices, ECPE 4605/4606), microwave engineering (ECPE 4104), microelectronics and packaging (ECPE 4214/4234/4235/4236), and VLSI design (ECPE 5545). A course in RFIC design complements these existing courses, and represents a much-needed bridge between the Department's capabilities in wireless communications systems and state-of-the-art integrate circuit technology. Students concentrating in wireless communications, microelectronics, or VLSI can all benefit from such a course. The growing regional communications and electronics industry would also benefit from a RF integrated circuit curriculum at Virginia Tech.

Learning Objectives

  • Calculate noise (amplitude and phase), linearity, and dynamic range performance metrics for RF devices and circuits;
  • Discuss transceiver architectures relevant to current wireless communications standards and their relative advantages and disadvantages;
  • Discuss active and passive device technologies relevant to RFICs and their relative performance advantages and disadvantages;
  • Design monolithic inductors for integrated amplifiers and oscillators;
  • Design IC implementations of RF functional blocks (such as low-noise amplifiers, mixers and oscillators) based on foundry models and design rules to meet specifications for a wireless communications system;
  • Discuss monolithic synthesizer architectures and their performance;
  • Discuss issues in single-chip radio implementations; and
  • Utilize RF/microwave CAD software in the design

Course Topics


Percentage of Course

Basic concepts in RF Engineering: noise; nonlinear effects; sensitivity and dynamic range 10%
Transceiver architectures and systems issues for current Wireless communications standards 10%
Active and passive device technologies for RFICs 10%
Low-noise amplifiers (LNAs) 10%
Mixers 10%
Oscillators and phase noise 12%
Frequency synthesizers 13%
Power amplifiers 8%
Single-chip radios, packaging/testing issues 7%
Computer-aided design of RFICs 10%