Cafe website visitor Ray Gutierrez generously provided a paper for publication
a few years ago, and now has provided a follow-on article on the subject
of intermod cancellation in RF amplifiers. Says Ray, "This paper is
a continuation work for the “New
High Efficiency Intermodulation Cancellation Technique for Single Stage
Amplifiers.” Published in January 2008 on RF Café’s Paper section.
The paper describes configurations for dual and multiple parallel amplifiers
and uses the basic Reflect Forward technique for intermodulation cancellation.
Some new improvements were made to the RFAL technique to improve the
efficiency and operation." Further, "I had done much of the work for
this new paper back then but got busy doing other things in my retirement
time. The other day I got back to it and figured it was a shame to throw
it all out without publishing it so that others may benefit. I do not
know if anyone has used this technique in a real product. I did not
renew the USA patent so anyone is now free to use it." Ray's paper is
presented here in HTML format, but at the bottom of the page is a link
to the PDF file is you need that.
Title: Reflect Forward Linearizer for Combined
Author: R. Gutierrez
Date: February 2012
Introduction: The new circuit configurations
use the basic concept of the published Reflect Forward (RFAL) intermodulation
linearizer technique listed in the references. The circuits use an improved
fundamental signal cancellation loop for significant input signal reduction
in the composite IM error signal. The vectored IM error signal improves
the two-tone linearity of the system up to the 1 dB compression point
of the combined amplifiers by (Intermod Loop ON/OFF delta improvement
of IMD3 >20 dBc). Two configurations are shown. One uses directional
couplers and the other circulators to sample the input reflected signals
used for intermodulation cancellation at the output of the combined
amplifiers. The new circuit can use more economical lower power dissipation
components for higher power added efficiency than previous configurations.
The technique is applicable from single to multiple numbers of parallel
combined single stage amplifiers.
The basic RFAL technique uses
the behavior of transistors when driven into its non-linear operating
region. At the high drive levels the input of the transistor reflects
not only the fundamental frequency components of the input signals but
also the non-linear distortion components that appear at the output
of the transistor. The level of the distortion products at the input
are sufficiently proportional to the output such that it can be used
and processed as a correction or error signal to cancel the output distortion
of the main transistor amplifiers. The circuit samples the forward and
reflected signals from the amplifiers adjusting its phase and amplitude
to produce an efficient IM error cancellation signal that has a low
level input carrier content.
The basic block diagrams for the
Parallel Combined RFAL (PC-RFAL) are shown in Figure 1a and 1b.
US Patent 6,573,793 “Reflect
Forward Adaptive Linearizer” June 3 2003.
“The RFAL Technique
for Cancellation of Distortion in Power Amplifiers”, High Frequency
Electronics, June 2004.
“High Frequency Linearized LDMOS Amplifiers
Utilize the RFAL Architecture.” High Frequency Electronics, February
“Criss-Cross RFAL Cancels the IMD Distortion in Amplifiers”
December 2007. RF Cafe website. Papers section.
‘New High Efficiency
Intermodulation Cancellation Technique for Single Stage Amplifiers”
RF Cafe website. Papers section.
Discussion for each of the main functional circuit blocks:
(Reference Fig 1a and 1b)
Combined Main Amplifiers
The two main amplifiers should be very equal in performance. The
input of each amplifier should be well matched, flat and smooth with
no inflection points over the operating band. The transistors can be
GaAs or LDMOS type and DC biased Class A or Class AB. Connections from
the input couplers or circulators to the transistor’s input matching
network should be kept short as possible since the added delay will
have to be compensated after the output of the main amplifiers and will
add to the output loss of the system.
Transistor selection for
optimum IMD cancellation should be made with consideration for linearity,
cost, efficiency, frequency and power operating range. The individual
two tone 3rd Order Intercept Point (IP3Xistor) capability of the selected
transistor equal or better than:
IP3Xistor ³ [(IMD3 (dBc) -14)/2]+
Pave -6 in dBm
Max average power of
the PC-RFAL Pave= Tone P1 (dBm) + Tone P2 (dBm)
IMD3 (dBc) = the desired IMD3 in dBc measured from the
max operating tone power P1 of the PC-RFAL.
assumes a minimum 14 dBc delta IM3 cancellation improvement in the third
order intermod of the selected transistor and should account for combining,
coupler, main delay losses and over the frequency band.
The Mitsubishi MGF2445A GaAs FET selected when operating at Vd=9v Id=350
P1dB = +28 dBm, IP3= +40 and the designed PC-RFAL
operates at Pave =+28 dBm with IM3 = 50 dBc
IP3Xistor ³ [(IMD3
(dBc) -13)/2]+ Pave -6 IP3Xistor ≥
[(50-14)/2]+28-6 ≥ 40 dBm
Figure 1a. Parallel Combined RFAL
Amplifier (PC-RFAL) using couplers.
Figure 1b. Parallel Combined RFAL
Amplifier (PC-RFAL) using circulators.
The input signal splits
even by using an in-phase divider. Directional 10 dB couplers
#1 and #2 samples both the forward and reflected signal at the input
of the Main amplifiers. Circulators can replace the 10 dB couplers and
provides better performance but at a higher cost and size as shown in
The reflected signal from the main amplifiers contains
the suppressed level of the fundamental carriers, the level depending
on how well the input of the transistor is matched to the source. (Normally >15
dB of return loss). When the operating input level drives the transistor
into the non-linear range, the transistor produces output distortion
products that also appear at the input together with the reflected fundamental
carrier signals. This composite signal is used for forming the proper
error cancellation signal to be coupled to the output of the combined
Ideally the error signal that cancels all the distortion
at the output of the combined main amplifiers should contain only the
distortion products and zero fundamental input carrier signals. The
circuit “Input Signal Cancellation Loop” is used for significant input
carrier cancellation its main purpose is to reduce the overall average
power handled by the error amplifier over its operating frequency and
The reflected signals of both amplifiers are
combined and fed to a summing coupler. The value of the coupler should
be as high as possible for minimum insertion loss in the reflected path
containing the desired intermods that are used to develop the error
signal. The coupled signal must provide sufficient input signal at the
sum port to cause maximum cancellation of the input fundamental components
to the input of the error amplifier over the operating bandwidth.
Input Signal Cancellation Loop.
forward port of the Main 1 amplifier’s 10 dB directional coupler #2
samples the input signals. The coupled fundamental input signal is attenuated
by a VVA #1 and is properly phased through #1 a variable and fixed delay
and fed to the summing coupler port #3. (The VVA and Delay could be
replaced with an I/Q vector modulator). If there is not sufficient input
signal used for deep fundamental cancellation an in-phase coupler can
be used to sum the forward signal from both main amplifiers. For the
circulator configuration a 10 dB coupler is used at the input of the
divider to sample the incoming signal.
The composite error signal at the output of the
summing coupler #3 is linearly amplified and phased to the correct level
and fed to the summing port of the 10 dB coupler #4 connected to the
main delay line. The final composite error signal mixes with the distortion
products of the combined main amplifiers and causes significant cancellation
of the IM distortion.
The delay #1 and VVA #1 and VVA #2 elements
are best adjusted with an input (peaked phased) multitone signal spaced
so that at least two thirds of the operating frequency spectrum range
at the max expected nominal operating power of the PC-RFAL. This will
provide the most optimum linear operation versus frequency and output
power range. (The variable portion of the delay and VVA can be replaced
with an IQ Vector Modulator to save space.)
The error amplifier
has to overcome the losses of the reflected signal traveling through
the couplers, divider VVA, delay etc. (The circulator configuration
has lower losses than the couplers and requires a lower gain amplifier).
The error amplifier must amplify the error cancellation signal to the
proper level at the summing coupler #4 without adding any new distortion.
The error amplifier should have a 1 dB CP of 10 dB higher than the maximum
signal handled through the IM cancellation loop. An input bandpass filter
may be necessary to prevent error amplifier overload.
Main Delay Line
The output signal and the error
cancellation signals must have the same time of arrival with opposite
phase at the output of the coupler to cancel the intermodulation distortion.
The IM Cancellation Loop will have a longer delay than the Main Amplifier’s
path. Use of a low loss delay line is recommended. Note that it is possible
to operate at multiple delay wavelengths from the optimum but this reduces
the operating bandwidth and increases losses.
Summing Coupler and Combiner
The Main Delay Line connects
to the 10 dB output directional coupler #4, a 10 dB coupler is a good
trade-off for low output signal insertion loss and reasonable IM Loop
loss. The forward port is terminated in 50 ohms. This load must be capable
of dissipating the coupled output signal plus most of the error signal.
The summing port is used to feed the error signal that cancels the distortion
products from the main amplifiers.
The delta IM cancellation improvement
ranges from 10 to 30 dB for the IM3 Loop ON/Off; IM5 cancellation delta
improvement of around 5 to 20 dB for the IM5 Loop ON/ Off; IM7 cancellation
around from 5 to 15 dB for the IM7 Loop ON/OFF over the whole frequency
and power level range.
The prototype PC-RFAL was designed to operate at an average power
of +28 dBm, 875 MHz center frequency with a 20 MHz operating bandwidth.
This band was selected only because of equipment and parts availability.
See the detailed circuit of the basic main amplifier schematic in Figure
TThe individual Main amplifiers use a single GaAs FET type
Mitsubishi MGF2445A biased at Vdrain = 9 volts
Idrain = 350 ma with
a 1 dB gain compression of +28 dBm. The circuit contains a LM337 variable
DC regulator to maintain the FET drain fixed at 9 volt and has a protection
shut down circuit in case of failure of the negative gate voltage supply.
Note: Minor individual adjustment of the gate bias point of each main
transistor was used to best match their individual performance.
Figure 2. Main Amplifier Schematic
|Freq 800 to 960 MHz
|Gain= 16 dB
||Flatness= +/- 0.25 dB
|RLinput= -20 dB
||RL out= -12 dB
|P1dB CP=28 dBm
||IP3 =40 dBm
||(Two tone 875 and 876 MHz @ Pout +21 dBm ea tone)
||Idrain= 350 ma
||Vgate@ -2 volts
The Error Amplifier used has a flat gain of over 50 dB with a 1
dB compression point of +28 dBm and IP3 of 42 dBm. It uses +15v at 750
ma. This amplifier was selected to make sure it had sufficient linearity
over the full range of the Main Amplifiers and not interfere with their
performance. The PC-RFAL amplifier operates at +28 dBm or 4 dB back-off
from the 1 dB CP of +32 dBm. At the +28 dBm level for the PC-RFAL the
error amplifier has to handle a +8 dBm composite signal. A more efficient
error amplifier with a lower gain and a +20 dBm 1 dB CP could replace
the one used.
Figure 3. Gain & Fundamental
Reflected Signal Cancellation.br>
The 850 to 900 MHz swept frequency performance of the combined PC-RFAL
is shown in Figure 3 at an input of +10 dBm. (Trace 1). The PC-RFAL
provides a nominal 15 dB gain with minor change from IM Loop ON or OFF
condition. (See Trace 2a for IM Loop OFF and Trace 2b for IM Loop ON)
Note that the PC-RFAL circuit’s operational bandwidth is listed
from 865 to 885 MHz frequency range but it can provide significant linearization
over a greater operational bandwidth. Better performance was achieved
with the circulator configuration resulting in a 30 MHz operational
BW, a little better IM cancellation, slightly higher power and with
lower error amplifier gain.
The IM Loop ON condition maintains
the amplifier’s gain linear up to +2.5 dB above the typical 1 dB compression
point of IM Loop OFF condition. The tradeoff when operating above or
near the compression point is that it requires a larger error amplifier
that is able to handle the increasing amplitude of the error signal.
Operation of output power up to the 3 dB back-off from 1 dB CP (@ IM
Loop OFF) allows use of a lower level amplifier that improves the overall
efficiency of the PC-RFAL.
TTrace 3 in the plot represents the
fundamental signal power in dBm versus frequency of the reflected input
signal at the 20 dB test coupler located at the output of the error
amplifier. As previously discussed the lower fundamental level reduces
the maximum power that the error amplifiers must handle over the operating
frequency range and improves the overall efficiency of the PC-RFAL.
A deep fundamental cancellation depends on the flatness and phasing
of the Main Amplifier’s reflected input signal. Better Main input matching
or a shaping network could be used to broaden the cancellation over
a wider frequency range.
Figure 4. Two Tone Intermod Tests
@ Pave=+28 dBm (IM Cancellation Loop ON vs. OFF)
TThe PC-RFAL intermodulation products were measured at set frequencies
with two tones spaced 1 MHz apart. Set frequencies of (865, 866 MHz),
(875, 876 MHz), and (885, 886 MHz), with a per tone output power level
of +25 dBm. The error amplifier’s DC power was turned ON and OFF
and the peak delta from carrier to the IM3 products in dBc was measured
and plotted. An ON/OFF delta improvement of equal or greater than 20
dB is shown in the graph. A better than 30 dB delta improvement is possible
if the circuit is tuned for a narrower frequency band or at a lower
output power level range.
Figure 5. Output Power, Error
Amplifier Power and Intermod Delta Improvement vs. Two Tone Input
The PC-RFAL’s input was driven with two-tone signals at 875 and
876 MHz from +11 to about +18 dBm average.
The IM3, IM5 and IM7 intermods
were measured referenced to the carrier tones and the peak dBc measured
with the error amplifier ON and OFF. The two measurement were subtracted
for each intermods and plotted. The IM3 delta shown is over 25 dBc for
most of the input/output range. As the output power gets close to the
1 dB compression point the delta improvement tapers off fast. At this
point the error amplifier is at its limit in linear operation and degrades
the PC-RFAL performance.
Output Spectrum with 8 Tones. Performance
set at average composite Pout of +22 dBm.
(8 Carriers Peaked
Phase with Spectrum Analyzer on peak hold and 2 MHz carrier separation)
CCenter tone is missing to measure the worst case intermod.
Figure 6. Output
Spectrum with Intermod Cancellation Loop OFF Worst
case IM= 24.65 dBc
Figure 7. Output
Spectrum with Intermod Cancellation Loop ON
Worst case IM= 47.38 dBc
Figure 8. Error Signal Output Spectrum
with 8 Tones.
Performance at PC-RFAL average composite Pout of +22
(8 Carriers Peaked Phase with Spectrum Analyzer on peak hold
and 2 MHz carrier separation.)
The work shows two new configurations
of the basic Reflect Forward linearization technique that has some efficiency
advantages over previous methods. An important feature of the RFAL configuration
is that with the cancellation Loop in the OFF condition the amplifier
has the same basic performance of a non-linearized amplifier. (Except
for small delay, coupler and/or circulator losses). This allows
the possibility of a simple circuit to shut-down the IM cancellation
loop when the input signal level is low and the amplifier has acceptable
IM performance. This will further improve overall amplifier efficiency
and makes it possible to use these configurations from low noise to
high power levels.
The present configuration can be arranged in
a circular shape for an “n” number of amplifiers connected to
radial combiners and dividers and mounted to a cylindrical casing to
dissipate the heat. By using lower power, cheaper, transistors to reach
the desired power and linearity levels it is easier to thermal manage
the design, reduce size and make it more economical.
The US Patent
6,573,793 has not been renewed therefore all the circuits are available
for free commercial use. Hopefully someone will find them useful and
put them to work in a real product. This work was mostly done in 2008
and finally I found the time to write it up and publish it before is
totally forgotten. Most likely will be my last.
Reflect Forward Linearizer for Combined Amplifiers, by Ray Gutierrez
(click for PDF file)