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High aspect ratio microstructure coupler



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Couplers are one of the most frequently used passive devices in microwave circuitry. The main function of a coupler is to divide (or combine) a radio frequency signal into (from) two separate signals by a specific ratio and phase difference. With the need for smaller electronic devices, a reduction in the area of a distributed coupler would prove to be valuable. The purpose of this research is to develop, simulate, fabricate and test high aspect ratio microstructure couplers that are smaller in area than existing distributed couplers, and have comparable or better performance. One method used to reduce the area of a distributed coupler is to replace single or multiple transmission lines with lumped element equivalent circuits. One category of lumped elements that has not been extensively implemented is high aspect ratio lumped elements. High aspect ratio lumped elements fabricated with deep X-ray lithography are able to take advantage of using the vertical dimension, and reduce their planar area. In this thesis high aspect ratio lumped elements are used in the design of 3-dB microstructure couplers that show significant area reduction compared to equivalent distributed couplers. The designs of the microstructure couplers were based on the lumped element equivalent circuits of a 3-dB branch-line and a 3-dB rat-race distributed coupler. Simulations were performed to determine the lumped element values that would provide the largest 3-dB bandwidth while still maintaining close to ideal coupling and through values, return loss bandwidth, isolation bandwidth, and phase. These lumped element values were then implemented in the microstructure coupler designs as high aspect ratio microstructure lumped elements. 3-D electromagnetic simulations were performed which verified that the structures behaved electrically as couplers. The microstructure couplers were designed to be 220 µm tall nickel structures with capacitance gap widths of 6 µm. Fabrication of the microstructure couplers using deep X-ray lithography was performed by the microfabrication group at IMT/KIT in Karlsruhe, Germany. Before testing, detailed visual inspection and the etching of the structures was performed at the Canadian Light Source. A total of five microstructure couplers were tested. Four of the tested couplers were based on the 3-dB branch-line coupler, and the fifth coupler was based on the 3-dB rat-race coupler. The microstructure branch-line design that had the best overall results was fabricated on quartz glass substrate and had an operation frequency of 5.3 GHz. The 3-dB bandwidth of the coupler was measured to be better than 75.5% and extrapolated to be 95.0%. At the centre frequency the through and coupled values were -4.32 dB and -4.44 dB. The phase difference between the couplers output ports was designed to be 90.0° and was measured to be 95.8°. The ±5° phase bandwidth was measured to be 12.7% and the isolation bandwidth was 28.8%. The measured results from the other couplers were comparable to simulation results. The main advantage of the microstructure coupler designs over existing distributed couplers is that the microstructure couplers show a significant area reduction. The branch-line microstructure designs were at least 85% smaller in area than their distributed equivalent on quartz glass. The rat-race microstructure design showed an area reduction of 90% when compared to its distributed equivalent on quartz glass.



lumped elements, x-ray lithography, RF-MEMS



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Electrical Engineering


Electrical Engineering


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