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Equalizing the Slope Gain in Your Next RF & Microwave Design

10 March 2021

Understanding RF wideband microwave gain slope, installation and reliability

When looking at key design trends for RF & microwave components such as higher frequency, increased bandwidth, and larger component counts, it becomes apparent that RF/microwave engineers will have to look for new ways to deal with inherent challenges in gain slope that are exhibited by many RF components.

This is where surface mount chip equalizer technology will become a necessity. The main function of this type of component is to provide a positive slope compensating for unwanted variations across a given frequency band. This is especially important in the Defense, Space and Communication Broadband industries where they are pushing the RF design to be more compact, agile, and suitable for harsh environments.

The following are 3 key trends RF/microwave engineer designers could face in their next RF wideband microwave application.

1. Gain slope variation over frequency:

With increasing digital demand on commercial broadband and increase in high data rate communication links on the space and military side, RF systems are being used in many microwave applications up to 40 GHz frequency. The increasing frequency and bandwidth provide RF engineers with a greater challenge in dealing with unwanted negative gain slope. The amount of compensation required, and frequency of interest are unique to the application.

Gain slope variation over frequency can be categorized into positive slope gain, negative slope gain or positive/negative parabolic gain slope. Wide-band RF Microwave systems can demonstrate these characteristics either having their gain increase or decreases.

Surface mount chip equalizers are a special type of attenuator with a linear gain and positive slope used to compensate for any negative gain characteristics which can occur in components such as amplifiers and transmission lines located in wide-band RF/microwave applications. These chip equalizers are manufactured using surface mount robust thick and thin film process technology and are a total passive solution.

Providing engineers with a customizable range of products that can be chosen for today’s most demanding applications poses many challenges. This is where Smiths Interconnect CEX Series shines by providing multiple slope and band options allowing the designer to achieve more precision compensation in their RF system.

CEXgraph.gif

Graph: linear gain chip equalizer with a positive slope can be used to compensate for the unwanted response.
 

2. Ease of installation:

Surface mount chip equalizers have been designed to be surface mountable and compatible with most automated assembly processes used in the industry today. The product is fully solderable and can withstand the riggers of most reflow profiles and chemicals used in todays printed circuit board processes.

Also, surface mount chip equalizers offer an edge metallization on the input and output pads providing a visible solder fillet after installation providing another level of quality and long-term reliability.  

3. Reliability and lower cost of ownership

RF designers will need to consider the implementation cost when it comes to their wide-band RF/microwave application. The total cost of assembly, board design, component storage and treatment must be considered during the RF design phase. Surface mount and pick and place technology will help reduce manufacturing complexity and cost compared to standard chip-and-wire manufacturing.

In additional using a qualified test capability to screen the products in accordance with the latest military standards and provide data simulating the life performance of the component can reduce downtime and implantation cost.  Adding this level of qualification aligns these components to be well suited for today’s space and defense programs where no exception can be made on component reliability.

CEX Series

The high frequency chip equalizers CEX Series, provides a configurable product approach in solving typical gain challenges exhibited by RF systems. Customers can choose from a wide array of slope options and can specify a frequency range, within the specified 20% bandwidth guidelines, up to 40 GHz frequency. This provides RF engineers with  a new level compensation in the most desirable frequency ranges of today’s most demanding applications.

 

In summary, RF & Microwave components are experiencing new trends and technology focusing on sophisticated, reliable, compact, and cost-effective component solutions.

Decades of experience have positioned Smiths Interconnect well – both in designing and delivering state of the art RF and Microwave component solutions specifically engineered and designed to support the trends and technology of the future.

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