AWR Application Notes

Design of MIMO and Phased Array Antenna Systems

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APPLICATION NOTE AWR Software for the Design of MIMO and Phased Array Antenna Systems Phased array antennas are becoming popular for a variety of applications such as automotive driver assist systems, satellite communications, advanced radar, and more. The complexity and cost issues involved in developing communications systems based on phased array antennas are being addressed through new functionalities in electronic design automation (EDA) software that support designers with the means to develop new system architectures and component specifications, as well as implement the physical design of individual components and verify performance prior to prototyping. Design Overview This application note discusses these trends and presents recent advances in EDA tools for phased array-based systems. While actively-steered phased array antennas have many advantages, they are extremely complex and their production, especially non-recurring development costs, is significantly higher than for conventional antenna design. As the industry shifts toward highly integrated phased array systems, it is critical for in-house systems experts to work closely with hardware developers, with both fully exploring the capabilities and tradeoffs among possible architectures and integration technologies. In addition, a start-to-finish design flow made possible with EDA software has become critical in moving beyond the initial system simulation, which is focused on early architecture definition, to the development of link budgets and component specifications. A preferred phased array system design flow manages the start-to-finish front-end development, embedding RF/ microwave circuit simulation and/or measured data of radio/signal-processing (behavioral) models within a phased array system hierarchy. Such software enables the system designer to select the optimum solution, ranging from hybrid modules through fully integrated silicon core RF integrated circuit (IC) devices, addressing the specific requirements of the targeted application. Perhaps more importantly, a system-aware approach, carried throughout the entire phased array development cycle, enables the team to continually incorporate more detail into their predictive models, observe the interactions between array components, and make system adjustments as the overall performance inadvertently drifts from early idealized simulations. Design failure and the resulting high costs of development are often due in part to the inability of high-level system tools to accurately model the interactions between the large number of interconnected channels, which are typically specified and characterized individually. Since overall phased array performance is neither driven purely by the antenna nor by the microwave electronics in the feed network, simulation must capture their combined interaction in order to accurately predict true system behavior. Circuit, system, and electromagnetic (EM) co-simulation enables verification throughout the design process.

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