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Cascaded 2-Tone, 3rd-Order Intercept Point (IP3)

When two or more tones are present in a nonlinear device, intermodulation products are created as a result. A power series describes all of the possible combinations of generated frequencies. 3rd-order products lie near in frequency to the two input tones and are therefore very likely to fall inband at the output. As a device is driven farther into its nonlinear region, the amplitudes of the third order products increase while the powers of the input tones decrease. If the device was not limited in output power, then the powers of the intermodulation products would increase in power until they were eventually equal in power with the input tones at the output.

3rd-Order Intercept Point (IP3) Graph - RF Cafe

Graph of P1dB, IP2, IP3, and Saturation

See cascade calculations for NF, IP2, IP3, and P1dB.

Example cascaded system - RF Cafe
Click here to view an example of a cascaded system.
Assuming a gain of 1 (0 dB) the slope of the fundamental gain line would be 1:1; the slope of the 3rd-order gain line would be 3:1. Accordingly, the 3rd-order products increase in power at twice the rate of the input tones and are always three times farther away from the IP3 than the input tones when not near saturation.

The power of the 3rd-order products can be predicted when the IP3 is known, or the IP3 can be predicted when the relative amplitudes of the 3rd-order tones and the input tones are known.

Cascading IP3 Values in a Chain of Components

Calculating the cascaded values for 3rd-order intercept point (IP3) for the system budget requires use of ratios for gain and power levels for IP3 (do not use dB and dBm values, respectively). The standard format for indicating decibel values is to use upper case letters; i.e., IP3 for units of dBm. The standard format for indicating power values is to use lower case letters; i.e., ip3 for units of mW.

Conversions:   ip3 = 10IP3/10  ↔  IP3 = 10 * log10 (ip3)

where ip3 has units of mW and IP3 has units of dBm

Cascaded components for calculating IP2 - RF Cafe

A Typical Chain of Cascaded Components


Cascading receiver transmitter stages two at a time - RF Cafe

Combining 2 Stages at a Time for Calculations

This equation gives the method for calculating cascaded output IP3 (oip3) values based on the oip3 and gain of each stage. When using the formula in a software program or in a spreadsheet, it is more convenient and efficient to calculate each successive cascaded stage with the one preceding it using the following format, per the drawing (above-right).

Cascaded 3rd-Order Intercept Point (IP3) Formula - RF Cafe     Cascaded receiver transmitter stage notation - RF Cafe

Converting IP3 power to dBm

These formulas are used to convert back and forth between input- and output-referenced IP3 values:

IP3Output = (IP3Input + Gain)  {dBm}

IP3Input = (IP3Output - Gain)  {dBm}

The following equation is a series expansion of the mixing (multiplying) of two pure tones:

2-tone mixing products series expansion equation - RF Cafe

Equal Input Powers
(see below for unequal powers)

P3rd-order products = Pinput tones@output - 2 · (IP3 - Pinput tones@output)  {dBm}

P3rd-order products = 3 · Pinput tones@output - 2 · IP3  {dBm}

IP3 =3/2 · Pinput tones@output - 1/2 P3rd-order products {dBm}

Unequal Input Powers

IP3 spectral content unequal tone powers - RF CafePL = P2 - 2*(IP3 - P1)

PU = P1 - 2*(IP3 - P2)

where power units are kept constant in dBm or dBW.