Tunable MIMO mmWave receiver blocks interference

Tunable MIMO mmWave receiver blocks interference

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty

Researchers at MIT have developed a reconfigurable millimetre-wave multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) wireless receiver architecture with four times stronger spatial interference than previous designs.

MIMO systems have multiple antennas, enabling them to transmit and receive signals from different directions, and are particularly key for 5G and 6G mmWave designs. The wireless receiver senses and blocks spatial interference at the earliest opportunity, before unwanted signals have been amplified, which improves performance, especially with satellite systems and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The key to the MIMO receiver architecture is a nonreciprocal phase shifter to target and cancel out unwanted signals. The reconfigurable phase shifter structure can block up to four times more interference than some similar devices. In addition, the interference-blocking components can be switched on and off as needed to conserve energy.

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The analog portion uses antennas to receive signals, which are amplified, down-converted, and passed through an analog-to-digital converter before being processed in the digital domain of the device. In this case, digital beamforming is required to retrieve the desired signal.

But if a strong, interfering signal coming from a different direction hits the receiver at the same time as a desired signal, it can saturate the amplifier so the desired signal is drowned out. Digital MIMOs can filter out unwanted signals, but this filtering occurs later in the receiver chain. If the interference is amplified along with the desired signal, it is more difficult to filter out later.

“There is already a lot of utilization happening in the frequency ranges we are trying to use for new 5G and 6G systems. So, anything new we are trying to add should already have these interference-mitigation systems installed. Here, we’ve shown that using a nonreciprocal phase shifter in this new architecture gives us better performance. This is quite significant, especially since we are using the same integrated platform as everyone else,” said Negar Reiskarimian, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

“The output of the initial low-noise amplifier is the first place you can do this filtering with minimal penalty, so that is exactly what we are doing with our approach,” he says.

The researchers built and installed four nonreciprocal phase shifters immediately at the output of the first amplifier in each receiver chain, all connected to the same node. These phase shifters can pass signal in both directions and sense the angle of an incoming interfering signal. The devices can adjust their phase until they cancel out the interference.

The phase of these devices can be precisely tuned, so they can sense and cancel an unwanted signal before it passes to the rest of the receiver, blocking interference before it affects any other parts of the receiver. In addition, the phase shifters can follow signals to continue blocking interference if it changes location.

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“If you start getting disconnected or your signal quality goes down, you can turn this on and mitigate that interference on the fly. Because ours is a parallel approach, you can turn it on and off with minimal effect on the performance of the receiver itself,” says Reiskarimian.

The team demonstrated a compact MIMO architecture on a 3.2-square-millimeter chip built in 45nm SOI process that could block signals which were up to four times stronger than what other devices could handle. Simpler than typical designs, their phase shifter architecture is also more energy efficient.

Moving forward, the researchers want to scale up their device to larger systems, as well as enable it to perform in the new frequency ranges used by 6G wireless devices. These frequency ranges are prone to powerful interference from satellites. In addition, they would like to adapt nonreciprocal phase shifters to other applications.


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