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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Electrical and Computer Engineering

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Joseph C. Bardin

Subject Categories

Electrical and Electronics | Electronic Devices and Semiconductor Manufacturing | Mechanics of Materials | Power and Energy | Semiconductor and Optical Materials | Systems and Communications


Dynamic range is an important metric that specifies the limits of input signal amplitude for the ideal operation of a given receiver. The low end of dynamic range is defined by the noise floor whereas the upper limit is determined by large-signal distortion. While dynamic range can be predicted in the temperature range where compact transistor models are valid, the lack of large-signal models at temperatures below -55 C prevents the prediction and optimization of dynamic range for applications that require cryogenic cooling. For decades, the main goal concerning the performance of these applications was lowering the noise floor of cryogenic receiver front-ends. For this, linear small-signal noise models have been extensively studied and used for designs of low-noise amplifiers.

In this work, the existing small-signal noise modeling approach is extended to capture the weakly nonlinear properties of the transistors that are commonly used in cryogenic amplification. Indium phosphide high electron mobility transistors and silicon germanium heterojunction bipolar transistors are considered. The goal of this work is to identify the fundamental dynamic range limitations of these transistors such that the results are not device specific, but applicable to the corresponding device families.

Identifying the fundamental limitations of dynamic range in a semiconductor device requires a broad understanding of physical properties of the transistors. For this, a theoretical analysis will be presented first as a function of temperature. The small-signal noise modeling will then be discussed using techniques that are well recognized in the literature. This will be followed by an explanation of the nonlinear modeling approach used in this work. This approach relies on the definition of Taylor series expansion coefficients of the dominant nonlinear mechanisms of the transistors. The modeling results will be interpreted with respect to the initially presented theoretical framework. Finally, the dynamic range performance will be studied as a function of source and load terminations. In addition to this systematic approach to understanding the physical limitations of dynamic range, model to measurement agreement of broadband cryogenic amplifiers will also be presented which will verify the accuracy of the modeling approach.