Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: November 2017

7 - Low-Noise Amplifier Design



Noise is a random unwanted signal, typically of small amplitude, superimposed on the ideal, deterministic voltages and currents of the circuit. In electronics, the term noise has two main interpretations.

Noise can be an interfering signal caused by a set of deterministic signals generated by an external circuit (or by another part of the circuit under consideration). Interference is caused by electromagnetic coupling of the interfering signal source with the circuit interconnects. While this kind of noise has an ultimately deterministic cause, it is often characterized in a statistical way. Electromagnetic compatibility analyzes and models this kind of noise, and develops circuit design approaches having low sensitivity to interferers.

On the other hand, noise (also called intrinsic noise) is a random signal generated by the very elements of the circuit (typically resistors, diodes, transistors; reactive elements are ideally noiseless). Such noise is intrinsically associated with the charge transport and generation-recombination processes in semiconductors and conductors, and cannot be eliminated, though its effect may be, as we shall see, alleviated through proper circuit design. Intrinsic noise is therefore an ultimate limit to the performance of the circuit in dealing with signals of very small amplitude. In fact, when the signal power is comparable with the noise power, the signal over noise ratio (S/N ratio) tends to unity, becoming incompatible with the detection of a signal in the receiver stage.

Due to the presence of intrinsic noise, the open circuit voltage (or short-circuit current) observed at the ports of any electronic device is affected by stochastic fluctuations having zero mean value, but nonzero mean square value (and therefore nonzero available electrical power). Since intrinsic noise is a random phenomenon, it should be characterized as a stochastic process, see Sec. 7.2 for a review.

This chapter is devoted to the basic principles of electrical noise in circuits, to noise device models (active and passive), and to the design of low-noise amplifiers, starting from the analysis of circuits including random noise generators (Sec. 7.3), and including a short discussion on the physical origin of electrical noise (Sec. 7.5). The minimization of the noise figure in a loaded two-port is addressed in Sec. 7.7, while the noise models of passive and active devices are discussed in Sec. 7.6 and Sec. 7.8, respectively.

[1] A., Papoulis and S. U., Pillai, Probability, random variables, and stochastic processes. McGraw-Hill, 1985.
[2] A. Van der, Ziel, Noise in solid state devices and circuits. Wiley-Interscience, 1986.
[3] S., Sze and K. K., Ng, Physics of semiconductor devices. Wiley Online Library, 2007.
[4] H., Nyquist, “Thermal agitation of electric charge in conductors,” Phys. Rev., vol. 32, pp. 110–113, Jul. 1928.
[5] P., Russer and S., Müller, “Noise analysis of linear microwave circuits,International Journal of Numerical Modelling: Electronic Networks, Devices and Fields, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 287– 315, 1990.
[6] F., Bonani and G., Ghione, Noise in semiconductor devices: modeling and simulation. Springer Science & Business Media, 2001, vol. 7.
[7] D. E., Meer, “Noise figures,IEEE Transactions on Education, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 66–72, May 1989.
[8] J., Lange, “Noise characterization of linear twoports in terms of invariant parameters,” IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 37–40, Jun. 1967.
[9] H., Rothe and W., Dahlke, “Theory of noisy fourpoles,Proceedings of the IRE, vol. 44, no. 6, pp. 811–818, Jun. 1956.
[10] G., Gonzalez, Microwave transistor amplifiers: analysis and design. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997.
[11] H., Fukui, “Optimal noise figure of microwave GaAs MESFET's,IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, vol. 26, no. 7, pp. 1032–1037, Jul. 1979.
[12] R. A., Pucel, H. A., Haus, and H., Statz, “Signal and noise properties of gallium arsenide microwave field-effect transistors,” Advances in Electronic & Electron Physics, vol. 38, pp. 195–265, 1975.
[13] A., Cappy, “Noise modeling and measurement techniques,IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 1–10, Jan. 1988.
[14] M. W., Pospieszalski, “Modeling of noise parameters of MESFETs and MODFETs and their frequency and temperature dependence,IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, vol. 37, no. 9, pp. 1340–1350, Sep. 1989.
[15] B., Hughes, “A temperature noise model for extrinsic FETs,IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, vol. 40, no. 9, pp. 1821–1832, Sep. 1992.
[16] H., Fukui, “The noise performance of microwave transistors,” IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, vol. ED-13, no. 3, pp. 329–341, Mar. 1966.
[17] H. T., Friis, “Noise figures of radio receivers,Proceedings of the IRE, vol. 32, no. 7, pp. 419–422, Jul. 1944.
[18] M. L., Edwards, S., Cheng, and J. H., Sinsky, “A deterministic approach for designing conditionally stable amplifiers,IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, vol. 43, no. 7, pp. 1567–1575, Jul. 1995.
[19] R. S., Engelbrecht and K., Kurokawa, “A wide-band low noise l-band balanced transistor amplifier,Proceedings of the IEEE, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 237–247, Mar. 1965.
[20] Y., Xue, Y., Hao, Z., Haiying, Z., Xinnian, D., Zhiwei, L., Zhiqiang, and D., Zebao, “A monolithic 60 GHz balanced low noise amplifier,Journal of Semiconductors, vol. 36, no. 4, p. 045003, 2015.
[21] D. B., Estreich, “A monolithic wide-band GaAs IC amplifier,IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 1166–1173, Dec. 1982.
[22] L., Nevin and R., Wong, “L-band GaAs FET amplifier,” in Microwave Conference, 1978. 8th European, Sep. 1978, pp. 140–145.
[23] H. A., Haus and R. B., Adler, Circuit theory of linear noisy networks. The MIT Press, 1959, no. 2.
[24] D. D., Henkes, “LNA design uses series feedback to achieve simultaneous low input VSWR and low noise,” Applied Microwave and Wireless, vol. 10, pp. 26–33, Oct. 1998.
[25] A., Tasic, W. A., Serdijn, and J. R., Long, “Concept of transformer-feedback degeneration of low-noise amplifiers,” in Circuits and Systems, 2003. ISCAS ‘03. Proceedings of the 2003 International Symposium on, vol. 1, May 2003, pp. I–421–I–424 vol.1.
[26] D. J., Cassan and J. R., Long, “A 1-V transformer-feedback low-noise amplifier for 5-GHz wireless LAN in 0.18-μm CMOS,IEEE Journal of Solid-State Circuits, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 427–435, Mar. 2003.
[27] G., Girlando and G., Palmisano, “Noise figure and impedance matching in RF cascode amplifiers,IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems II: Analog and Digital Signal Processing, vol. 46, no. 11, pp. 1388–1396, Nov. 1999.
[28] T.-K., Nguyen, C.-H., Kim, G.-J., Ihm, M.-S., Yang, and S.-G., Lee, “CMOS low-noise amplifier design optimization techniques,” IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, vol. 52, no. 5, pp. 1433–1442, May 2004.
[29] P., Andreani and H., Sjoland, “Noise optimization of an inductively degenerated cmos low noise amplifier,IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems II: Analog and Digital Signal Processing, vol. 48, no. 9, pp. 835–841, Sep. 2001.
[30] H. A., Haus and R. B., Adler, “Optimum noise performance of linear amplifiers,Proceedings of the IRE, vol. 46, no. 8, pp. 1517–1533, Aug. 1958.