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How to bias a MOSFET amp?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by Bill N2CQR MOHBR, Aug 27, 2004.

  1. I'm trying to improve my limited understanding of how RF amps operate.
    I've been studying "Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur" and
    Experimental Methods in RF Design"

    SSDRA has a very helpful section that asks the reader to calculate max
    output power for a Class A RF amp (common emitter). They ask the
    reader to consider maximum voltage and current swings in the collector
    circuit that will keep the output linear. Basically, my understanding
    is that (with an RF choke in the Vcc line) max peak signal voltage on
    collector is Vc-Ve. Max peak current is the standing or quiescent
    current. In this way when the collector voltage is hitting its peak
    collector current is dropping almost to zero.

    While the SSDRA example uses BJTs, I'm guessing that essentially the
    same restrictions would apply to the drain circuit of a MOSFET amp.

    Here's my problem: When I look at MOSFET amp circuits in the
    literature, they often have linear amps with 12 volts on the drain,
    but with standing currents of only around 40 milliamps. And they
    claim 7 watts out. How can that be? Using the analysis outlined
    above, I'd think that you'd get max output of 12*.040 = .48 watts.

    Here's an example: I've been looking at Farhan's very FB SSB

    I'm trying to understand the biasing on his IRF510 final, and the RF
    output he's getting.

    He says he measures 20-24 volts peak RF across a 50 ohm load at the
    output. That's about 8 watts peak output.

    He's using 12 volt supply, and recommends setting the idle current
    through the MOSFET at 80 ma. Can that be right? According to my
    reading of Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur (SSDRA)(page 23)
    with a 12 volt supply we can expect peak signal voltage at the Drain
    of around 12 volts (with an RF choke in Vcc line). Peak current could
    be max 80 ma.(maintaining Class A). Under these biasing conditions,
    assuming Class A operation, max output power of .96 watts would be
    provided by a load of 150 ohms.

    Even if he were to be running this amp Class B (or close to it), I
    can't see how he'd get 8 watts out with only 80 milliamps of standing

    I'm very new to this kind of analysis, and strongly suspect that I'm
    misreading either SSDRA or Farhan's excellent article.

    Can someone please let me know where this apparent discrepency is
    coming from.

    Thanks and 73

    Bill N2CQR M0HBR CU2JL
  2. legg

    legg Guest

    Keep studying.

    The static bias is the zero-signal drain current and your calculation
    is for static DC loss. Signals applied to the gate can add to the
    drain current, as well as subtract.

    RF final amps are unlikely to be biased classA. Class B and C will
    have the final acting more like a switch. Current is imited by the
    load impedance - which in this case is a complex impedance that looks
    like 50 ohms at the output only.

    As to the answer for your posting - the fet in this case is biased by
    varying gate static voltage using the variable resistor in the
    schematic, as instructed.

  3. John Walton

    John Walton Guest

    It's a bias voltage, rather than a bias current. The MOSFET enters its
    linear conducting area after a certain threshold voltage is attained.
  4. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    I think the RF guys (I'm not one!) call an amplifier "linear" if the
    RF output amplitude follows the input drive amplitude. You can do this
    with a transistor that has very low quiescent bias. So "linear" does
    not mean "class A" to them. The key here is that an RF amp has a tuned
    output, whereas an audio amp doesn't. So the lopsided bias would
    normally produce intolerable distortion in something like audio, but
    the tuned output circuit changes the pulsey-looking collector/drain
    current back into a nice sine wave. So you don't need a lot of idle
    current, and the transistor really amplifies half of the incoming sine

    Most mosfets are pretty nicely linear (ie, straight-line Ic/Vd curve)
    beyond the initial knee. You could get gobs of watts at zero standing
    current, but then you'd have some zero-clipping (no output) for the
    smallest drive levels, so a little idle current helps.

  5. The only sensible way to do it AFAICS is to operate the MOSFET in
    class C as a high speed switch and reconstruct the pulsed output into
    a sine wave carrier by means of a suitable tuned circuit. I wouldn't
    consider driving a MOSFET for RF use in any other way. The efficiency
    should be pretty darned good, too.
  6. John Fields

    John Fields Guest

    That doesn't make any sense to me.

    Unless things have changed pretty drastically from how they were when
    I was doing RF, class "C" was pretty much relegated to FM, so that
    when you hit PTT, you banged the hell out of the final and filtered
    the hell out of the carrier, which went to maximum amplitude and
    stayed there, and the information was put on the constant amplitude
    carrier by varying its frequency (or phase).

    AM and SSB finals were _always_ linear amps and, like John said, the
    _amplitude_ of the carrier/sideband(s) followed the amplitude of the
    modulating audio precisely.

    Whether you use a MOSFET as a switch or as a resistive element
    yielding a linearly varying output depends on how you tailor the
    characteristics of the MOSFET to fit the application. After all,
    there are lots of linear audio amps out there with MOSFET class A and
    class B finals, aren't there? So why shouldn't there be linear MOSFET
    RF amps as well?
  7. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    That means, to get a linear amp, the input signal has to be converted
    to PWM gate drive. That's hard to do at high frequencies. At 300 MHz,
    a power mosfet doesn't much look like a high-speed switch any more.

  8. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    RF guys call the amplifier "linear" if the output, after filtering,
    looks like a bigger version of the input -- basically the same criterion
    as any other amplifier. The reason that you can get away with half as
    many active elements as with an audio amplifier is because if the
    modulation is narrow compared to the carrier each half of the waveform
    looks the same, so amplifying half of it then filtering reconstructs the
    half you didn't play with.

    Class A amplifiers (and push-pull class AB or B amplifiers) are used in
    RF work, but mostly because they cut down on the harmonics that must be
    filtered out.
  9. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    Don't operate SSB much, do you?
  10. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    Well, AM tube finals were often operated class C with the modulation
    applied to the plate supply. This is harder to do with silicon because
    the varying collector voltage modulates the collector-base capacitance
    and causes weird phase shifts.

    And there are linear MOSFET RF amps; they're necessary for single-sideband.
  11. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest


    Oops, I meant Id/Vg. But you all knew that.

  12. Certainly not at that kind of frequency! But for the lower HF bands,
    it's *perfectly* feasible.
  13. Nope. I'm a CWer. But the use of MOSFETs at RF for Anything other than
    SSB (FM & AM in particular are ideally-suited) is as Kosher as Jim
    Thompson's Saturday afternoon lunch of salt beef sandwiches with extra
  14. John Fields

    John Fields Guest

    Funny, I never considered plate modulation to be class C; that is if
    we're talking about the same thing. What I'm thinking about is when
    you key the transmitter on and it starts putting out a carrier at some
    level, then you modulate the plate supply with audio so that at the
    low peaks of the audio waveform the output of the TX is zero, but at
    the output of the high peaks it's twice (?) what it was with no
    modulation. Is that class C?
  15. John Larkin

    John Larkin Guest

    Have you actually built a class C linear RF power amp? Tell us how it

  16. Active8

    Active8 Guest

    It can be. Depends on the biasing. It *is* AM, however.

    Class C just means that the conduction angle is less than 180 deg. I
    recall seeing it specified as a certain amount less than 180 once,
    but I don't recall how much. The idea is to give the output tank
    enough kick to get it to swing.

    So you amplify the carrier with class C and modulate the plate. I've
    seen projects which do this with bipolars. One that comes to mind is
    an old Radio Electronics article for a uWave ATV commo system using
    gunplexers, but that can't be right since gunnplexers are modulated
    at the gunnplexer. I think it was another ATV project. If I ever
    find that old article I'll letcha know.
  17. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    In a tube setup the RF amplifier should be operating in class C and the
    power audio amplifier should provide nice linear modulation to the RF
    amp's plate supply. In fact* one needs to provide sufficient excitation
    to the RF final, too, lest the thing go into a current limited mode on
    the modulation peaks.

    Presumably you could make a REALLY EFFICIENT setup with transistors by
    operating the RF final in class E, but you get that pesky capacitance
    problem back...

    * So I understand, I'm just a tube wannabe.
  18. Tim Wescott

    Tim Wescott Guest

    Motorola used to list RF MOSFETs for linear amplifier use. I don't know
    if they went to On semi or FreeFall.
  19. Active8

    Active8 Guest

    I don't know how well it works, but I saw a class E schem using a
    section of line to take out the odd harmonics.
  20. SioL

    SioL Guest

    You should know.

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