Section: New Results

Stability assessment of microwave amplifiers and design of oscillators

Participants : Laurent Baratchart, Sylvain Chevillard, Martine Olivi, Fabien Seyfert, Sébastien Fueyo, Adam Cooman.

The goal is here to help design amplifiers, in particular to detect instability at an early stage of the design. Activity in this area is gaining importance with the coming of a doctoral (S. Fueyo) and a postdoctoral (A. Cooman) student along with planned software developments. Application of our work to oscillator design methodologies started recently with Smain Amari from the Royal Military College of Canada (Kingston, Canada).

As opposed to Filters and Antennas, Amplifiers and Oscillators are active components that intrinsically entail a non-linear functioning. The latter is due to the use of transistors governed by electric laws exhibiting saturation effects, and therefore inducing input/output characteristics that are no longer proportional to the magnitude of the input signal. Hence they typically produce non-linear distortions. A central question arising in the design of amplifiers is to assess stability. The latter may be understood around a functioning point when no input but noise is considered, or else around a periodic trajectory when an input signal at a specified frequency is applied. For oscillators, a precise estimation of their oscillating frequency is crucial during the design process. As regards devices devised to operate at relative low frequencies, time domain simulations, based on the integration of the underlying non-linear dynamical system, answers these questions satisfactorily. For complex microwave amplifiers and oscillators, the situation is however drastically different: the time step necessary to integrate the transmission line's dynamical equations (which behave like simple electrical wire at low frequency) becomes so small that simulations are intractable in reasonable time. In addition to this problem, most linear components of these circuits are known through their frequency response, and require therefore a preliminary, numerically unstable step to obtain their impulse response, prior to any time domain simulation.

For all these reasons it is widely preferred to perform the analysis of such systems in the frequency domain. In the case of stability issues around a functioning point, where only small input signals are considered, the stability of the linearized system obtained by a first order approximation of each non-linear dynamic is considered. This is done by means of the analysis of transfer impedance functions computed at some ports of the circuit. We have shown, that under some realistic hypothesis on the building blocks of the circuit, these transfer functions are meromorphic functions of the frequency variable s, with at most a finite number of unstable poles in the right half-plane [20]. Dwelling on the unstable/stable decomposition in Hardy Spaces, we developed a procedure to assess the stability or instability of the transfer functions at hand, from their evaluation on a finite frequency grid [12]. The data are generally supplied by circuit simulators, used by microwave device designers. We are currently working towards precise estimation techniques of the unstable poles of these transfer functions, hence on the evaluation of their rational unstable part. Our approach involves here the AAK theory, furnishing at low cost a rough estimate of the desired singularities, combined with specialized versions of stable rational approximation procedures. Practical application of this work are sought among the microwave amplifier design community as well as for the synthesis of oscillators: for the latter, a precise location of one unstable poles is necessary. A software toolbox is being developed for this purposes, and a collaboration on this project has started with Smain Amari from the Royal Military College on microwave oscillator design.

When stability is studied around a periodic trajectory, which is determined in practice by Harmonic Balance algorithms, linearization yields a linear time varying dynamical system with periodic coefficients and a periodic trajectory thereof. While in finite dimension the stability of such systems is well understood via the Floquet theory, this is no longer the case in the infinite dimensional setting when delays are considered. Dwelling on the theory of retarded systems, S. Fueyo's PhD work has made remarkable progress on this topic by showing that, for certain simple circuits with properly positioned resistors, the monodromy operator is a compact perturbation of a stable operator, and that only finitely many unstable point of its spectrum can occur. A practical application of this result is to generalize the previously described techniques of stability assessment around a functioning point into a stability assessment technique around periodic trajectories. This can be recast in terms of the finiteness of the number of abscissas of unstable poles of the Harmonic Transfer functions of the circuit. It will be of great importance to generalize such considerations to more complex circuits, whose structure is less well understood at present.