Monolithic microwave integrated circuit

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Photograph of a GaAs MMIC (a 2-18 GHz upconverter) MMIC example.jpg
Photograph of a GaAs MMIC (a 2–18 GHz upconverter)
MMIC MSA-0686. Monolithic microwave integrated circuit MSA0686 fixed.png
MMIC MSA-0686.

A Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit, or MMIC (sometimes pronounced "mimic"), is a type of integrated circuit (IC) device that operates at microwave frequencies (300 MHz to 300 GHz). These devices typically perform functions such as microwave mixing, power amplification, low-noise amplification, and high-frequency switching. Inputs and outputs on MMIC devices are frequently matched to a characteristic impedance of 50 ohms. This makes them easier to use, as cascading of MMICs does not then require an external matching network. Additionally, most microwave test equipment is designed to operate in a 50-ohm environment.

Integrated circuit electronic circuit manufactured by lithography; set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece (or "chip") of semiconductor material, normally silicon

An integrated circuit or monolithic integrated circuit is a set of electronic circuits on one small flat piece of semiconductor material that is normally silicon. The integration of large numbers of tiny transistors into a small chip results in circuits that are orders of magnitude smaller, faster, and less expensive than those constructed of discrete electronic components. The IC's mass production capability, reliability, and building-block approach to circuit design has ensured the rapid adoption of standardized ICs in place of designs using discrete transistors. ICs are now used in virtually all electronic equipment and have revolutionized the world of electronics. Computers, mobile phones, and other digital home appliances are now inextricable parts of the structure of modern societies, made possible by the small size and low cost of ICs.

Microwave form of electromagnetic radiation

Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter; with frequencies between 300 MHz (1 m) and 300 GHz (1 mm). Different sources define different frequency ranges as microwaves; the above broad definition includes both UHF and EHF bands. A more common definition in radio engineering is the range between 1 and 100 GHz. In all cases, microwaves include the entire SHF band at minimum. Frequencies in the microwave range are often referred to by their IEEE radar band designations: S, C, X, Ku, K, or Ka band, or by similar NATO or EU designations.

Radio frequency (RF) is the oscillation rate of an alternating electric current or voltage or of a magnetic, electric or electromagnetic field or mechanical system in the frequency range from around twenty thousand times per second to around three hundred billion times per second. This is roughly between the upper limit of audio frequencies and the lower limit of infrared frequencies; these are the frequencies at which energy from an oscillating current can radiate off a conductor into space as radio waves. Different sources specify different upper and lower bounds for the frequency range.


MMICs are dimensionally small (from around 1 mm² to 10 mm²) and can be mass-produced, which has allowed the proliferation of high-frequency devices such as cellular phones. MMICs were originally fabricated using gallium arsenide (GaAs), a III-V compound semiconductor. It has two fundamental advantages over silicon (Si), the traditional material for IC realisation: device (transistor) speed and a semi-insulating substrate. Both factors help with the design of high-frequency circuit functions. However, the speed of Si-based technologies has gradually increased as transistor feature sizes have reduced, and MMICs can now also be fabricated in Si technology. The primary advantage of Si technology is its lower fabrication cost compared with GaAs. Silicon wafer diameters are larger (typically 8" to 15" compared with 4" to 8" for GaAs) and the wafer costs are lower, contributing to a less expensive IC.

Silicon Chemical element with atomic number 14

Silicon is a chemical element with symbol Si and atomic number 14. It is a hard and brittle crystalline solid with a blue-grey metallic lustre; and it is a tetravalent metalloid and semiconductor. It is a member of group 14 in the periodic table: carbon is above it; and germanium, tin, and lead are below it. It is relatively unreactive. Because of its high chemical affinity for oxygen, it was not until 1823 that Jöns Jakob Berzelius was first able to prepare it and characterize it in pure form. Its melting and boiling points of 1414 °C and 3265 °C respectively are the second-highest among all the metalloids and nonmetals, being only surpassed by boron. Silicon is the eighth most common element in the universe by mass, but very rarely occurs as the pure element in the Earth's crust. It is most widely distributed in dusts, sands, planetoids, and planets as various forms of silicon dioxide (silica) or silicates. More than 90% of the Earth's crust is composed of silicate minerals, making silicon the second most abundant element in the Earth's crust after oxygen.

Transistor semiconductor device used to amplify and switch electronic signals and electrical power

A transistor is a semiconductor device used to amplify or switch electronic signals and electrical power. It is composed of semiconductor material usually with at least three terminals for connection to an external circuit. A voltage or current applied to one pair of the transistor's terminals controls the current through another pair of terminals. Because the controlled (output) power can be higher than the controlling (input) power, a transistor can amplify a signal. Today, some transistors are packaged individually, but many more are found embedded in integrated circuits.

Wafer (electronics) thin slice of semiconductor material used in the fabrication of integrated circuits

In electronics, a wafer is a thin slice of semiconductor, such as a crystalline silicon (c-Si), used for the fabrication of integrated circuits and, in photovoltaics, to manufacture solar cells. The wafer serves as the substrate for microelectronic devices built in and upon the wafer. It undergoes many microfabrication processes, such as doping, ion implantation, etching, thin-film deposition of various materials, and photolithographic patterning. Finally, the individual microcircuits are separated by wafer dicing and packaged as an integrated circuit.

Originally, MMICs used MEtal-Semiconductor Field-Effect Transistors (MESFETs) as the active device. More recently High Electron Mobility Transistors (HEMTs), Pseudomorphic HEMTs and Heterojunction Bipolar Transistors have become common.

A MESFET is a field-effect transistor semiconductor device similar to a JFET with a Schottky (metal-semiconductor) junction instead of a p-n junction for a gate.

Other III-V technologies, such as indium phosphide (InP), have been shown to offer superior performance to GaAs in terms of gain, higher cutoff frequency, and low noise. However they also tend to be more expensive due to smaller wafer sizes and increased material fragility.

Indium phosphide chemical compound

Indium phosphide (InP) is a binary semiconductor composed of indium and phosphorus. It has a face-centered cubic ("zincblende") crystal structure, identical to that of GaAs and most of the III-V semiconductors.

Silicon germanium (SiGe) is a Si-based compound semiconductor technology offering higher-speed transistors than conventional Si devices but with similar cost advantages.

Gallium nitride (GaN) is also an option for MMICs. Because GaN transistors can operate at much higher temperatures and work at much higher voltages than GaAs transistors, they make ideal power amplifiers at microwave frequencies.

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Author S. P. Marsh

Editors I. D. Robertson and S. Lucyszyn