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Section: New Results

Stability assessment of microwave amplifiers and design of oscillators

Participants : Laurent Baratchart, Sylvain Chevillard, Martine Olivi, Fabien Seyfert, Sébastien Fueyo, Adam Cooman.

The goal is here to help design amplifiers and oscillators, in particular to detect instability at an early stage of the design. This topic is studied in the doctoral work of S. Fueyo, co-advised with J.-B. Pomet (from the McTao Inria project-team). Application to oscillator design methodologies is studied in collaboration with Smain Amari from the Royal Military College of Canada (Kingston, Canada).

As opposed to Filters and Antennas, Amplifiers and Oscillators are active components that intrinsically entail a non-linear functioning. The latter is due to the use of transistors governed by electric laws exhibiting saturation effects, and therefore inducing input/output characteristics that are no longer proportional to the magnitude of the input signal. Hence, they typically produce non-linear distortions. A central question arising in the design of amplifiers is to assess stability. The latter may be understood around a functioning point when no input but noise is considered, or else around a periodic trajectory when an input signal at a specified frequency is applied. For oscillators, a precise estimation of their oscillating frequency is crucial during the design process. For devices operating at relatively low frequencies, time domain simulations perform satisfactorily to check stability. For complex microwave amplifiers and oscillators, the situation is however drastically different: the time step necessary to integrate the transmission line's dynamical equations (which behave like a simple electrical wire at low frequency) becomes so small that simulations are intractable in reasonable time. Moreover, most linear components of such circuits are known through their frequency response, and a preliminary, numerically unstable step is then needed to obtain their impulse response, prior to any time domain simulation.

For these reasons, the analysis of such systems is carried out in the frequency domain. In the case of stability issues around a functioning point, where only small input signals are considered, the stability of the linearized system obtained by a first order approximation of each non-linear component can be studied via the transfer impedance functions computed at some ports of the circuit. In recent years, we showed that under realistic dissipativity assumptions at high frequency for the building blocks of the circuit, these transfer functions are meromorphic in the complex frequency variable s, with at most finitely many unstable poles in the right half-plane [4]. Dwelling on the unstable/stable decomposition in Hardy Spaces, we developed a procedure to assess the stability or instability of the transfer functions at hand, from their evaluation on a finite frequency grid [11], that was further improved in [10] to address the design of oscillators, in collaboration with Smain Amari. This has resulted in the development of a software library called Pisa (see Section 3.4.1, aiming at making these techniques available to practitioners. Research in this direction now focuses on the links between the width of the measurement band, the density of the measurement points, and the precision with which an unstable pole, located within a certain depth into the complex plane, can be identified.

Extensions of the procedure to the strong signal case, where linearisation is considered around a periodic trajectory, have received attention over the last two years. When stability is studied around a periodic trajectory, determined in practice by Harmonic Balance algorithms, linearization yields a linear time varying dynamical system with periodic coefficients and a periodic trajectory thereof. While in finite dimension the stability of such systems is well understood via the Floquet theory, this is no longer the case in the present setting which is infinite dimensional, due to the presence of delays. Dwelling on the theory of retarded systems, S. Fueyo's PhD work has shown last year that, for general circuits, the monodromy operator of the linearized system along its periodic trajectory is a compact perturbation of a high frequency, non dynamical operator, which is stable under a realistic passivity assumption at high frequency. Therefore, only finitely many unstable points can arise in the spectrum of the monodromy operator, and this year we established a connection between these and the singularities of the harmonic transfer function, viewed as a holomorphic function with values in periodic L2 functions. One difficulty, however, is that these singularities need not affect all Fourier coefficients, whereas harmonic balance techniques can only estimate finitely many of them. This issue, that was apparently not singled out by practitioners, is currently under examination.

We also wrote an article reporting about the stability of the high frequency system, and recast this result in terms of exponential stability of certain delay systems [24].