The following is excerpted from Chapter 8 from a new edition of the book, RF Circuit Design, 2e by Christopher Bowick. (If you order a copy of this book before March 30, 2008 you can receive additional 20% off. Visit www.newnespress.com or call 1-800-545-2522 and use code 91603. )
Click here for "What's in an RF Front End?"
Click here for "Understand Radio Architectures, Part 1"
Click here for " Radio Architectures, Pt 3: Intermodulation and Intercept Points"
Click here for "Radio Architectures, Pt 4: Sensitivity, Noise, Front End Amps"
Click here for "Radio Architectures, Pt 5: ADCs and Receivers"
Moving up the scale in complexity, we come to the next evolutionary RF architecture: the tuned-radio-frequency (TRF) receiver (see Fig. 8-6). This early design was one of the first to use amplification techniques to enhance the quality of the signal reception. A TRF receiver consisted of several RF stages, all simultaneously tuned to the received frequency before detection and subsequent amplification of the audio signal. Each tuned stage consisted of a bandpass filter --which need not be an LC tank filter but could also be a Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) filter or a dielectric cavity filter-- with an amplifier to boost the desired signal while reducing unwanted signals such as interference.
The final stage of the design is a combination of a diode rectifier and audio amplifier, collectively known as a grid-leak detector. In contrast to other radio architectures, there is no translation in frequency of the input signals, and no mixing of these input signals with those from a tunable LO. The original input signal is demodulated at the detector stage. On the positive side, this simple architecture does not generate the image signals that are common to other receiver formats using frequency mixers, such as superheterodynes.
The addition of each LC filter-amplifier stage in a TRF receiver increases the overall selectivity. On the downside, each such stage must be individually tuned to the desired frequency since each stage has to track the previous stage. Not only is this difficult to do physically, it also means that the received bandwidth increases with frequency. For example, if the circuit Q was 50 at the lower end of the AM band, say 550 kHz, then
the receiver bandwidth would be 500/50 or 11 kHz--a reasonable value. However at the upper end of the AM spectrum, say 1650 kHz, the received bandwidth increases to 1650/50 or 33 kHz.
As a result, the selectivity in a TRF receiver is not constant, since the receiver is more selective at lower frequencies and less selective at higher frequencies. Such variations in selectivity can cause unwanted oscillations and modes in the tuned stages. In addition, amplification is not constant over the tuning range. Such shortcomings in the TRF receiver architecture have led to more widespread adoption of other receiver architectures, including direct-conversion and superheterodyne receivers, for many modern wireless applications.
A way to overcome the need for several individually tuned RF filters in the TRF receiver is by directly converting the original signal to a much lower baseband frequency. In the direct conversion receiver (DCR) architecture, frequency translation is used to change the high input frequency carrying the modulated information into a lower frequency that still carries the modulation but which is easier to detect and demodulate. This frequency translation is achieved by mixing the input RF signal with a reference signal of identical or near-identical frequency (see Fig. 8-7). The nonlinear mixing of the two signals results in a baseband signal prior to the detection or demodulating stage of the front-end receiver.
The reference signal is generated by a local oscillator (LO). When an input RF signal is combined in a nonlinear device, such as a diode or field-effect-transistor (FET) mixer, with an LO signal, the result is an intermediate-frequency (IF) signal that is the sum or difference of the RF and LO signals.
When the LO signal is chosen to be the same as the RF input signal, the receiver is said to have a homodyne (or "same frequency") architecture and is also known as a zero-IF receiver. Conversely, if the reference signal is different from the frequency to be detected, then it's called a heterodyne (or "different frequency") receiver. The terms superheterodyne and heterodyne are synonyms ("super" means "higher" or "above" not
In either homodyne or heterodyne approaches, new frequencies are generated by mixing two or more signals in a nonlinear device, such as a transistor or diode mixer. The mixing of two carefully chosen frequencies results in the creation of two new frequencies, one being the sum of the two mixed frequencies and the other being the difference between the two mixed signals.
The lower frequency is called the beat frequency, in reference to the audio "beat" that can be produced by two signals close in frequency when the mixing product is an actual audio-frequency (AF) tone. For example, if a frequency of 2000 Hz and another of 2100 Hz were beat together, then an audible beat frequency of 100 Hz would be produced. The end result is a frequency shifting from a higher frequency to lowerand in the case of RF receiversbaseband frequency.