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Albert Garcia Tormo

Ph.D. Thesis title:
Bandwith extension techniques for high-efficiency power amplifiers 


Albert Garcia Tormo



Reading day:

Friday, 15th April  2011 


This thesis is about power amplification of time-varying signals; more precisely, it is about efficient power conversion, i.e. with minimum losses, of DC constant voltages into non-constant voltage signals.
This kind of power conversion is quite common in power-management circuits and electronics in general. It is present in most everyday use electronic devices, including mobile phones, portable audio players and routers, as well as in high-power devices such as audio amplifiers and wireless base stations. In most electronic devices, whether portable or not, the energy is available as DC constant voltage (typically from a battery or a power supply).
According to the information to transmit, this energy must be processed or transformed into a time-varying analogue signal so that, for instance, it can be directly converted into audio by a speaker or radiated by an antenna. The market trend is to reduce the size and weight of electronic devices whilst offering new or enhanced functionalities, including long autonomy in battery-powered devices (mainly portable). Improving the efficiency of power amplifiers not only extends the autonomy, but also allows using smaller and lighter heatsinks. Other applications such as high-power or embedded would also benefit from efficiency improvements of switching amplifiers.
The most efficient power-processing electronic devices are switching amplifiers. Switching amplifiers use reactive components (mainly inductors and capacitors) to perform an ideally lossless power processing, and active devices (transistors) driven as switches, either ON or OFF, to control this process. Whilst very high efficiencies can be achieved with switching amplifiers, their tracking fidelity may not be very high. The tracking fidelity can be improved by simply increasing the switching frequency (i.e. the frequency at which the active devices are driven), although, provided that a certain amount of energy is required to switch the state of each active device (switching losses), this technique also degrades the efficiency of the amplifiers.
Therefore, there exists a trade-off between switching frequency and tracking fidelity in switching amplifiers (efficiency-distortion trade-off). Switching amplifiers are typically designed using a high switching frequency compared to the amplifier's tracking bandwidth. Whilst this design strategy leads to feasible designs for kHz-bandwidth applications (using state-of-the-art technology), when applied to MHz-bandwidth applications, it leads to designs operating at very high switching frequencies, unfeasible with regard to switching losses. With the scope of addressing the efficiency-distortion trade-off of switching amplifiers, this thesis explores different techniques to extend the relative bandwidth of switching amplifiers, i.e. techniques to reduce the ratio of the amplifier's switching frequency to the amplifier's tracking bandwidth. Based on an alternative interpretation of switching amplifiers, as an encoding-reconstruction process, the different bandwidth extension techniques consider using alternative modulations, multi-level power amplification, high-order filtering and enhanced switching policies in the switching converter. The performance characterisations in terms of switching frequency, tracking error and robustness against non-idealities (including electromagnetic compatibility and crosstalk) points out the suitability of multi-level power amplification based on asynchronous modulators for designs operating at relatively low switching frequencies, i.e. at switching frequencies in the same range than the bandwidth of the signal to track and power amplify.