Gain Enhancement Techniques for mm-wave On-chip Antenna on Lossy CMOS Platforms

  • Haoran Zhang

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Recently, there is great interest in achieving higher-level integration, higher data rates, and reduced overall costs. At millimeter-wave (mm-wave) bands, the wavelength is small enough to realize an antenna-on-chip (AoC), which is an ideal solution for high compactness and lower costs. However, the main drawback of AoC is the low resistivity (10 Ω-cm) Si substrate used in the standard CMOS technology, which absorbs most radio-frequency (RF) power that was supposed to be radiated by the on-chip antenna. Moreover, due to the high relative permittivity (11.9) and relatively large electrical thickness of the Si, higher order surface wave modes get excited, which further degrade the antenna radiation performance. In order to alleviate the above-mentioned issues with the low gain of AoC, a combination of an artificial magnetic conductor (AMC) surface, a high dielectric constant superstrate, and a Fresnel lens is presented in this work. The AMC is realized in standard CMOS technology along with the AoC, whereas the superstrate and lens are part of a smart packaging solution. The AMC surface can change wave propagation characteristics at the operating frequency to achieve in-phase reflection, resulting in gain enhancement by reducing the loss in the substrate. The high dielectric constant superstrate behaves as an impedance transformer between the Si substrate and air, thus enhancing the coupling to air. Finally, the Fresnel lens enhances the gain by focusing the electromagnetic (EM) radiation beam at the boresight. For AoC realization, a standard 0.18 μm CMOS process was utilized. A coplanar waveguide (CPW) fed monopole on-chip antenna at 71 GHz, along with the corresponding driving circuit, was designed and fabricated. The AMC enhances the gain by 3 dB. Since the chip needs to be packaged anyways, in this work, we optimize the package to provide further gain enhancement. This smart package, comprising a superstrate and a Fresnel lens, provides a gain enhancement of 16 dB. The overall combination of the optimized AMC surface, superstrate layer, and lens package can provide a gain enhancement of around 19 dB. Furthermore, the package has been realized through additive manufacturing techniques that ensure lower costs for the overall system.
Date of AwardMay 2019
Original languageEnglish (US)
Awarding Institution
  • Computer, Electrical and Mathematical Sciences and Engineering
SupervisorAtif Shamim (Supervisor)


  • mm-wave
  • on-chip antenna
  • gain enhancement

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