Peculiarities of Distributed Passive Intermodulation Generation in Coplanar Waveguide Transmission Lines
Alexey Shitvov and Alexander Schuchinsky
The Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) Queen’s University of Belfast Northern Ireland Science Park, Queen’s Road, Queen’s Island, Belfast BT3 9DT United Kingdom Email: a.shitvov@qub.ac.uk
INTRODUCTION
Distributed nonlinear mixing constitutes a primary mechanism of passive intermodulation (PIM) distortion of multi carrier signals in printed transmission lines. The recent studies of the phenomenology of PIM generation have revealed the fundamental properties of the distributed PIM production in standalone microstrip lines. Cumulative intensification of the forward propagating PIM products, generation of reverse propagating PIM products in matched lines, geometrical effects, etc. have been predicted theoretically and confirmed experimentally. However, an important case of distributed PIM generation in coupled and multiconductor transmission lines has not been addressed yet.
It has been suggested elsewhere that fringing fields can noticeably contribute to PIM generation, so that the adjacent
transmission lines can be susceptible to crosstalk interference at the PIM frequency, even though they are well isolated
at the carrier frequencies. Moreover, the distributed PIM sources may additionally cause excitation of all guided modes
permissible in the multiconductor transmission lines at harmonic frequencies even without discontinuities. These spurious modes can have far reaching effects on signal integrity in the printed circuits.
This paper presents the results of the theoretical and experimental studies of distributed PIM generation in coplanar waveguide (CPW) transmission lines with weak nonlinearity. Nearfield probing has been used for mapping the field distributions at the fundamental and PIM frequencies on a length of straight uniform CPW fabricated from a commercial microwave laminate. It has been shown that the PIM product distribution in the CPW crosssection may have asymmetric pattern which varies along the line. This phenomenon is attributed to excitation of both even and odd modes of PIM products generated by the fundamental even modes with the symmetric field distribution of the carriers
in CPW with finite ground conductors.
The physics of distributed PIM production in CPW and the conditions for unimodal frequency conversion will be discussed. The theoretical analysis is based on a nonlinear transmission line (NTL) model with weak distributed nonlinearity. The firstorder perturbation solution for the thirdorder PIM products generated by two CW carriers is sought as a generalisation of the NTL phenomenology to the case of coupled odd and even modes of PIM products in CPW. The implications of this effect for design of lowPIM printed circuit components will be briefly discussed.
MECHANISM OF DISTRIBUTED PIM GENERATION IN PRINTED LINES
In order to explore the effects of distributed PIM generation in printed lines, a microstrip (MS) and a coplanar waveguide (CPW) samples were fabricated on Taconic TLG300310CL1/CL1 laminate of thickness 0.76 mm with
low profile 35 um copper cladding and 1 um immersion tin finishing. Preliminary experimental study performed by the authors proved that the PIM products in this material are mostly generated by the nonlinear dielectric substrate, [1], thus
a significant difference between the MS and CPW was anticipated due to dissimilarity in the field distributions. The
50 Ω samples have been designed with similar dimensions, so that both lines comprise 1.9 mm wide and 914 mm long straight uniform signal strips. The ground electrodes of the CPW were 40 mm wide, and the slots are 0.09 mm. Both MS and CPW samples have been fitted with the direct cable launchers carefully designed to ensure return loss better than 25 dB in the measurement band 890960 MHz without affecting PIM response, [2].
The experimental characteristics of the MS and CPW specimens presented in Fig. 1 show a similar increase of the PIM level towards the line output. The PIM product distributions are offset for about 24 dB from each other, provided equal probetoline coupling for MS and CPW, and also a horizontal shift of their minima can be observed. The difference between the PIM levels on the two lines has been simulated using the earlier developed NTLmodel of distributed PIM3 generation in printed lines, [1] and [3]. Taking into account a realistic charge distribution on the printed traces [4] and the geometrical factor of the nonlinear capacitance for the specified dimensions of the test specimens, the thirdorder PIM level on the CPW was obtained 22 dB higher than on the MS, which is in good agreement with the experimental
mean value of 24 dB. The horizontal offset of the troughs and humps can be attributed to the difference in the specimen port matching due to dissimilarity of the feeder cables in the two sets of measurements.
Distance from input (cm)
Fig. 1. Comparison of PIM product distributions along the microstrip and coplanar waveguide as measured at thirdorder PIM frequency 910 MHz and carrier power 2×44 dBm
A general trend of increasing PIM3 level towards the line output and ripples on the experimental characteristics in Fig. 1 enable consistent physical interpretation in terms of the phase synchronism in a fourwave mixing process, [3]. Such a description is founded upon the representation of the distributed response as the superposition of the individual contributions from similar lumped PIM sources located at each point along the line. A fundamental assumption of such a mechanism of PIM production is the omnidirectional generation by each elementary PIM source, which has been experimentally demonstrated in [5]. The simulation curve for PIM on MS in Fig. 1 has been obtained using the model developed in [1].
One of the major limitations of the models developed in [1] and [3] is that they are not suitable for analysis of mode conversion in CPW. Next section outlines the phenomenology of PIM generation in CPW.
DISTRIBUTED PASSIVE INTERMODULATION IN COPLANAR WAVEGUIDE
The phenomenology presented in this section is based upon the theory of distributed PIM generation developed in [1] and [3]. It is aimed to illustrate the mechanism of multimode PIM generation in CPW by a singlemode excitation of the carrier frequencies. We express the wave propagation on a CPW in terms of the slot voltages and currents, which can be related to the quasiTEM even and odd modes of CPW [6]. Accordingly, the wave propagation on a CPW transmission line with weakly nonlinear substrate can be described in terms of the vector functions of the slot voltages
and currents:
U
(
x t
,
)
=
U
U
1
2
(
(
x t
,
)
x t
,
)
and
I
(
x t
,
)
=
I
I
1
2
(
(
x t
,
)
x t
,
)
. The corresponding generalised telegrapher equations read:
∂ U
∂
RI ˆ
−
x
I
^{} ∂
∂ x
= −
= −
C ˆ
(
U
)
L ˆ
∂
∂
I
∂
U
t
∂
t
−
GU ˆ
where we formally introduce the symmetrical matrices of perunitlength resistance
ˆ
(1) 

ˆ 
ˆ 
R , inductance 
L and conductance, 
G , whose components are expressed in terms of the respective modal values. Let us assume the substrate has the third order nonlinearity, which leads to the thirdorder intermodulation processes. The corresponding matrix of perunit length capacitance has the from
C ˆ
=
C ˆ
0
+
C
2
η ˆ
U
0
1
0
U
2
2
=
C ˆ
0
+
C
2
ηU ˆ ˆ
2
(2)
where
ˆ
U
=
U
0
1
0
U
2
,
ˆ
C
0
_{=}
C
C
0
a
0
perturbation parameter. The matrix
a
C
0
C
0
η= ˆ
is the matrix of linear perunitlength capacitance and
C
2
is
a
small
η
11
η
21
η
12
η
22
defines the properties of the substrate nonlinearity. Notably,
η
11
≠ η
22
when the nonlinearity is different for the two slots. For the nongyrotropic substrate
η
12
=
η
21
=
C
2
^{.}
Equations (1) and (2) lead to the following nonlinear matrix differential equation for the vectorvoltage:
∂
2
U
∂
x
2
−
LC ˆ ˆ
0
∂
2
U
∂
t
2
−
(
RC ˆ ˆ
0
+
ˆ
ˆ
LG
)
∂
U
∂
t
−
ˆ
RGU
ˆ
=
R ˆ
C
2
ˆ
ˆ
ηU
2
∂
U
∂
t
+
L ˆ
C
2
ˆ
η
∂
ˆ
U
2
∂
U
∂
t
∂
t
+
L ˆ
C
2
ˆ
ˆ
ηU
2
∂
2
U
∂
t
2
(3)
The solution of this equation for any intermodulation frequency of twotone carrier excitation (carrier frequencies
and
amplitudes over the spectrum of mixing frequencies:
ω
1
ω ) can be obtained by perturbations using the small parameter
2
C and the Fourier expansion of the slotvoltage
2
+∞ 
+∞ 
+∞ 

U 
( 
x , t 
) 
= 
∑∑∑ 

k 
= 
0 
p 
=−∞ 
q 
=−∞ 

+∞ 
+∞ 
+∞ 

ˆ 
( 
) 
∑∑∑ 

U 
x , t 
= 

k 
= 
0 p 
=−∞ 
q 
=−∞ 
k
2
C
U
q
,
ˆ
k U
C
2
q ,
p k
,
p , k
(
(
x
x
)
)
e
e
i
i
ω
q
ω
q
, p
, p
t 
(4a) 
t 
(4b) 
where the mixing frequencies
of
ω
q, p
=qω + pω . Substituting (4) into (3) and collecting the terms with the same powers
1
2
C
2
, one can obtain the following system of linear differential equations for each mixing frequency:
k
k
=
0 :
≥ 1:
d
2
ˆ
I
ˆ
ϒϒϒϒ
q
dx
d
2
2
dx
2
2
−
I ˆ
2 − ϒϒϒϒ ˆ
q
,
,
p
p
U
q
U
q
,
,
p
,0
p k
,
(
(
x
)
x
)
=
k
−
1 v
∞
∞
∞
∞
∑∑ ∑ ∑ ∑ ∑
v
=
0
j
=
0
m
=−∞
n
=−∞
r
=−∞
s
=−∞
=
0
jω
q
−
r
,
p
−
s
ˆ
R
−
ω
q
−
r
,
p
−
s
ω
q
,
p
L ˆ
ηU ˆ ˆ
m n
,
,
j
(
x
)
U ˆ
r
−
m s
,
−
n v
,
−
j
(
x
)
U
q
−
r
,
p
−
s k
,
−
v
−
1
(
x
)
(5a)
(5b)
2 is the identity matrix. Equation (5a) implies
where the wavenumber matrix
that zeroorder perturbation solution contains only the terms at the fundamental frequencies, whereas the combinatorial frequency terms result from the solution of the inhomogeneous equations (5b) with the known RHS terms. Indeed, for k=1 the RHS of (5b) contains only the terms with indices (±1,0,0) and (0,±1,0) obtained from the solution of (5a).
ϒϒϒϒ ˆ
q
,
p
=
(
R ˆ + iω
q
,
p
L ˆ
)(
G ˆ + iω
q
,
p
C ˆ
0
)
and
ˆ
I
The respective boundary conditions follow from Kirchhoff’s voltage law and (1), which results in the following relations:
(
R ˆ + j
ω
q
,
p
,
(
ˆ
L
=
p
ˆ
R
+ j
ω
q
,
)
U
q
,
p k
,
(
p
l
L ˆ
)
)
U
q
,
p k
,
( 
0 
) 
(6a) 
(6b) 
Let us examine qualitatively the case of symmetrical excitation of CPW at fundamental frequencies. Given that the odd and even modes are not coupled in the case of geometrically symmetrical uniform transmission line with the boundary
conditions (6ab), one can expect that the even mode dominates at fundamental frequencies, whilst the conversion to the odd mode may occur only through the weak nonlinearity. Thus, in the first order of perturbation, the odd mode would make a negligible contribution to the propagating carrier waves. The symmetrical twotone excitation of the carrier waves has the following form:
V
(
t )
=
V
0
e
i
ω
1
t
+
V
0
e
i
ω
2
t
=
u
+
V e
0
i
ω
1
t
+
u
+
V e
0
i
ω
2
t
(7)
so that the general solution of (5a) can be expressed as follows
U
q
,
p
,0
(
x
)
=
u
+
+
,
q
A
p
,0
e
+
,
q
γ
−
p
x
+
+
,
q
B
p
,0
e
+
,
q
γ
−
p
(
l
−
x
)
+
u
−
A
−
,
q
p
,0
e
−
,
q
γ
−
p
x
+
−
,
q
B
p
,0
e
−
,
q
γ
−
p
(
l
−
x
)
(8)
1
1
u
u
−
=
1
−
1
where introduced are the following modal vectors:
u
and using the orthogonality relations _{(}
A
−
,
q
p
,0
=
−
,
q
B
p
,0
= 0
u
∓
_{)}
T
(
R ˆ
+
jω
q
,
p
L ˆ
)
+
=
and
±
= 0
. Substituting (7) and (8) into (6a) and (6b)
+
A
q
,
p
,0
,
+
B
q
,
p
,0
and find that
. Therefore, in the zero order of perturbation the symmetrical excitation results in the even
, one can obtain coefficients
propagating modes of carriers.
Next we substitute the calculated amplitudes of the zeroorder even modes into (5b) (which are the only terms in the righthand side of the equation) and note that the symmetry of the solution for the PIM voltage depends entirely upon the properties of matrix ηˆ . Namely, nonreciprocal PIM generation could result in generation of both even and odd
modes of PIM solution, as also unequal nonlinearity of the slots. In general, both η and η are uncorrelated random
≠ η . In this model, we
functions of x (due to the stochastic distribution of microscopic PIM sources) and thus
assume that
11
22
η
11
22
η
11
= 1, thus the perturbation parameter
C
2
and value
η
22
are to be derived from experiment.
To validate our conjecture, the nearfield PIM probing on a long uniform CPW transmission line has been employed [5]. The test sample was the 914 mm long 50Ω CPW transmission line with the matched direct cable launchers at the ends. The line was fabricated on Taconic TLG300310CL1/CL1 laminate, which features dominating substrate (voltagedriven) nonlinearity, as proved by our earlier measurements on a set of microstrip lines of different width [7]. The CPW dimensions are similar to those in the preceding section. The probe was represented by an openended coaxial cable similar to one used in [2]. An appropriate normalisation of the PIM probing results is described in [8].
The nearfield probing in linear regime was carried out at 910 MHz frequency with the aid of a PNA. The probe readings for the crosssectional electric field distribution at several positions along the transmission line are shown in Fig. 2a. The field patterns are fairly symmetrical, which allows us to assume that the highpower carriers in PIM measurements are represented by the even mode. Slight asymmetry of the distributions in Fig. 2a is related to the PCB panel warping. The effect of warping in PIM probing was caused by pressing the probe against the PCB surface.
Coordinate from the centre of CPW strip (mm)
a)
95
105
115
125
135
145
Coordinate from the centre of CPW strip (mm)
b)
Fig. 2. Crosssectional distributions of linear transmission coefficient S _{2}_{1}  and thirdorder PIM product at several positions along the 914 mm long uniform CPW transmission line
The nearfield PIM probing was carried out at 910 MHz  thirdorder PIM frequency, with 2×44 dBm CW carriers (f _{1} = 935 MHz and f _{2} = 960 MHz). The crosssectional distributions in Fig. 2b show an overall growth of the PIM level towards the line output, which is compatible with the proposed model ^{1} . Moreover, the existence and considerable contribution by the odd mode in PIM product can be easily inferred and consistently interpreted within the proposed model. Because the phase velocities and amplitudes of even and odd modes are different, the amplitudes of slot voltages of PIM products change out of phase along the transmission line (see Fig. 2b). Also, because the ground conductors are connected at the CPW terminals, the odd mode is trapped within the transmission line section and its longitudinal distribution features a standingwave pattern.
According to the proposed model, the results in Fig. 2 can be qualitatively interpreted in terms of unequal slot
nonlinearity, i.e.,
CPW transmission line, such as the cumulative PIM growth in the propagation direction and outofphase variations of the slot voltages along the transmission line. The detailed quantitative analysis of the problem, including an experimental extraction of the empirical nonlinearity parameters, will be discussed elsewhere.
≠ η . The model embraces all major features of distributed PIM generation in a weakly nonlinear
η
11
22
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
In the absence of conclusive experimental evidence, we can only speculate on the microscopic mechanisms of the substrate nonlinearity discussed and the inequality of the latter in two CPW slots. Although we consider here the nonlinear capacitance as the primary source of distributed PIM generation, which by the way is consistent with our earlier observations summarised in [1], it is noteworthy that the voltagedriven nonlinearity could manifest itself through the nonlinear conductance. It has been noted in [9] that silica filled polymers exhibit much greater conductivity, at least in the low field region, as compared with either silica or polymer, which also appear to be nonlinear. Notably, spherical silica inclusions are commonly used as filler in the PCB laminates. Moreover, the dielectric relaxation of the interfaces between glass fabric and base PTFE, as also between PTFE and epoxy layers, could further contribute to the nonlinear conductance. Whatever the nature of the substrate nonlinearity is, the modelling approach developed in this paper requires only minor modification to provide adequate treatment of the problem of distributed thirdorder PIM generation in transmission lines with nonlinear substrates.
η ≠ η , is even more speculative and needs further
The explanation of the nonlinearity dissimilarity, viz.
experimental investigation. One may suggest that nonuniform panel warping might contribute to such dissimilarity [10]. On the other hand, this may be the result of uneven plating or contamination of the slots during the fabrication and/or cleaning. In any case, within the limits of the proposed model this dissimilarity seems to be essential for consistent interpretation of the results in Fig. 2.
11
22
This study has revealed that, due to the stronger field confinement within the gaps, the CPW is characterised by considerably higher PIM generation rate, as compared with the MS transmission line of the same width. Moreover, distributed PIM products in CPW feature mixedmode generation. The odd PIM mode is difficult to eliminate and it can affect the performance of CPW and slotline circuits. The proposed phenomenology can provide accurate analysis of the major features of distributed PIM generation in CPW transmission lines and help to understand the mechanisms of nonlinear mode conversion and the ways of PIM mitigation.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This work has been supported by the Royal Academy of Engineering/EPSRC Research Fellowship. Authors are grateful to Taconic ADD and Trackwise Designs Ltd for the printed line samples and material specifications, and to Castle Microwave Ltd for providing access to the PIM test equipment.
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[2] 
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[4]
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[7]
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nd
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