IMEC Announces First Digital UWB Transmitter IC for IEEE 802.15.4a

IMEC’s 90nm CMOS digital UWB transmitter is the first ever published IEEE 802.15.4a standard-compliant transmitter and outperforms state-of-the-art low-power narrowband transmitter implementations. The transmitter covers all the frequency bands of the standard up to 10GHz and is especially suited for application in low-power wireless sensor networks.

Recently, the IEEE 802.15.4a standardization committee proposed an alternative physical layer for ZIGBEE providing positioning on top of low cost, low power and scalable data range using UWB as key technology. IMEC designed the transmitter IC based on the signal structure depicted in the standard. The chip consists of a digitally-controlled oscillator, a programmable frequency divider, a unique digital RF modulator and an early-late detector for frequency calibration of the oscillator.

The digitally controlled oscillator produces the RF carrier for all bands between 3 and 10GHz. The correct RF frequency is generated by a phase-aligned frequency locked loop instead of a traditional phase locked loop (PLL). This novel approach substantially reduces the start-up time to only 2ns and consequently reduces the signal duty cycle to only 3% resulting in very low power consumption. In addition, the technique also truncates the accumulative jitter process.

The transmitter has been designed in a 90nm digital CMOS technology with 1V power supply. Measurements on silicon show a power consumption for the transmitter of 0.65nJ per 16 chips burst (40pJ/pulse) at 3.5GHz carrier frequency and 1.4nJ per 16 chips burst (87pJ/pulse) at 10GHz. For the mandatory mode, this corresponds to 0.65mW to 1.4mW for 1Mbit/s data rate which outperforms state-of-the-art low-power narrowband transmitter implementations. The ultra-low power is obtained by switching off the entire transmitter between each burst and optimally exploiting the low power advantages of low duty-cycle communication.

These results show that the new standard leads to implementations with power consumptions meeting sensor network requirements. IMEC will use the low-power radio within its program on wireless autonomous transducer systems, run by IMEC-NL in the Holst Centre, targeting healthcare, lifestyle and process automation applications.

About IMEC
IMEC is a world-leading independent research center in nanoelectronics and nanotechnology. Its research focuses on the next generations of chips and systems, and on the enabling technologies for ambient intelligence. IMEC’s research bridges the gap between fundamental research at universities and technology development in industry. Its unique balance of processing and system know-how, intellectual property portfolio, state-of-the-art infrastructure and its strong network of companies, universities and research institutes worldwide position IMEC as a key partner for shaping technologies for future systems.

As an expansion of its wireless autonomous microsystems research, IMEC has created a legal entity in the Netherlands. Stichting IMEC Nederland runs activities at the Holst Centre, an independent R&D institute that develops generic technologies and technology platforms for autonomous wireless transducer solutions and systems-in-foil.

IMEC is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has representatives in the US, China and Japan. IMEC is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium, and has representatives in the US, China and Japan. Its staff of more than 1500 people includes more than 500 industrial residents and guest researchers. In 2006, its estimated revenue (P&L) was EUR 231 million.