Combine in RFIC Design Course
Neal Patwari (left) and Neiyer Correal troubleshoot
their final project in the new RFIC Design Course
After struggling to design and build a working radio on spec,
on time, and in budget, Virginia Tech students now have the opportunity
for further challenge - squeezing a radio onto a chip.
In a new graduate-level course on radio frequency integrated
circuit design, students use modern, commercial RF/microwave
CAD software to design and implement RF circuits at the IC level.
Such radios on chips have become common in wireless communications
applications, according to Sanjay
Raman, who developed and teaches the new course. "The
rapid expansion of wireless communications applications - paging,
RF identification, analog/digital cellular telephony and personal
communications services (PCS), wireless LANs - has led to an
explosion in the development of integrated circuit (IC) approaches
in the RF/microwave area," he explained.
"Highly integrated RF components are quickly replacing hybrid
circuits employing discrete semiconductor devices," he added.
"This means there is an increasing need for skilled RF/microwave
IC designers in industry."
The course covers transceiver architectures for current wireless
standards, active/passive device technologies, low-noise amplifiers,
mixers, frequency sources, and power amplifiers. For a final
project, student teams design a specific component RFIC for a
realistic wireless communications system applications and implement
and validate the design in a CAD environment.
"This was a great course," said Neal Patwari (MS, '99,
BSEE, '97), who took the course last spring. "It was a combination
of communication theory, electronics, and IC design. It tied
together many different areas in a single topic and gave me a
feel for all the areas," he said.
Neiyer Correal (Ph.D., '99) agreed, "It was one of the classes
I most enjoyed. It's very challenging and forced me to think
outside the box."
Patwari and Correal were both researchers in the department's
Mobile and Portable Radio Research Group (MPRG) and enjoyed looking
at communications from another angle. "I know what goes
on between radios, but this helped me understand how to build
them. What you can actually build limits what you think you can