Loughborough University
Thesis-2014-Kowalczuk.pdf (5.79 MB)

Simulating, fabricating and characterising photoconductive microwave switches for RF applications

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posted on 2014-06-23, 10:52 authored by Emma K. Kowalczuk
Photoconductive microwave switches can be used in place of traditional microwave switches to reconfigure antennas and RF circuits. The switch, which consists of a silicon die placed over a gap in transmission line, is controlled by illumination via a fibre optic cable. Hence there is no requirement to design electrical biasing lines which may affect RF performance. This benefit is the main motivation behind further developing and understanding the photoconductive switch. The second motivation is the growing demand for reconfigurable antennas which necessitate certain switching requirements; one specific area of interest is in cognitive radio applications. However, in order to use such a switch in RF circuitry, the photoconductive nature of the switch must be understood. This is addressed in this thesis presenting and applying analytical equations which dictate the material properties in photoconductive silicon. These equations are then used to generate a 3D EM simulation model to investigate transmission loss in the photoconductive switch. The concept of signal planarity is investigated so as to give some insight into the best way to package the switch. In order to potentially reduce loss and facilitate a packaged device, the fabrication of the switch is investigated. Namely, the treatment of the silicon and the addition of contacts on the silicon are discussed as possible methods to improve switch performance. Lastly, linearity, power handing and switching times are presented for the photoconductive switch. This characterisation is important with regards to understanding which types of application the switch can be used in. In particular the single tone and two tone linearity of the switch is measured these values have not previously been reported for this type of photoconductive switch. The results are encouraging and support further development of the switch into a packaged product to be used in reconfigurable antennas and circuitry.


School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering, Loughborough University



  • Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering


© Emma Kristina Kowalczuk

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en