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Sub-THz radar frontends

PhD - Leuven | About a week ago

Design the ultimate radar sensor above 100GHz
Radar sensors have moved in the past years from bulky systems to integrated solutions, driven by the needs of many applications in varying domains. They are the key component in self-driving cars, to provide robust sensing capabilities in every weather condition.  They allow to monitor vital signs such as breathing and heart rate of elderly people. One of the latest applications is gesture recognition in recent smartphones.

To improve their performance, next-generation radar will be exploiting the so-called ‘sub-THz’ frequency band, i.e. frequencies above 0.1THz or 100GHz.  The wide bandwidth available there will enable millimeter-scale resolutions. And the small wavelength will enable to integrate a huge amount of transmit and receive frontends in a small antenna area, enabling high angular accuracy.  This will result in the ultimate dream of an imaging radar, i.e. a radar capable of reproducing high-resolution 3D images of a scene.

The path towards sub-THz radars is of course not easy.  Many transistor technologies reach the limits of their maximum operating frequency. For low cost, and certainly if many transmitters and receivers are needed, implementation in a standard CMOS technology is preferred.  Previous research has proven that this is not impossible, but still major breakthroughs would be needed in the obtained TX output power or RX noise figure to enable sufficient mass market penetration of such radars.

For the best performance in applications that are not necessarily cost-constraint, other technologies are also employed. The most obvious one is BiCMOS technology, often used already in existing radars at 24 or 79GHz.  But even better performance is expected from transistors not based on silicon, but on III/V materials such as GaAs, GaN or InP. Imec is exploring the development of such transistors for mass volume production at low cost, and using those new transistors to design a sub-THz radar is also one of the goals of this PhD.

Finally, going even further to frequency bands above 300GHz is also part of the roadmap.  That will be again a bigger step in stretching the transistor performance to higher frequencies, and research on novel circuit techniques that enable that breakthrough is one of the pillars of imec’s radar roadmap.

We are looking for a highly motivated PhD student willing to take on these big challenges. Background in analog circuit design, and/or mmwave design techniques is a plus

Required background: Master in Electrical Engineering, analog and/or mmwave IC design experience,

Type of work: 10% literature, 50% design and simulation, 20% layout, 20% measurements

Supervisor: Piet Wambacq

Daily advisor: Jan Craninckx

The reference code for this position is 2021-112. Mention this reference code on your application form.

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