The Fundamentals of Millimeter Wave Radar Sensors

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  • Author: Cesar Iovescu & Sandeep Rao

Millimeter wave (mm-Wave) is a special class of radar technology that uses short-wavelength electromagnetic waves. Radar systems transmit electromagnetic wave signals that objects in their path then reflect. By capturing the reflected signal, a radar system can determine the range, velocity and angle of the radars transmit signals with a wavelength that is in the millimeter range. This is considered a short wavelength in the electromagnetic spectrum and is one of the advantages of this technology. A complete mm-Wave radar system includes transmit (TX) and receive (RX) radio frequency (RF) components; analog components such as clocking; and digital components such as analog-to-digital converters (ADCs), microcontrollers (MCUs) and digital signal processors (DSPs). Traditionally, these systems were implemented with discrete components, which increased power consumption and overall system cost.

Texas Instruments (TI) has solved these challenges and designed complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS)-based mmWave radar devices that integrate TX-RF and RX-RF analog components such as clocking, and digital components such as the ADC, MCU and hardware accelerator. Some families in TI’s mmWave sensor portfolio integrate a DSP for additional signal-processing capabilities.TI devices implement a special class of mmWave technology called frequency-modulated continuous wave (FMCW). As the name implies, FMCW radars transmit a frequency-modulated signal continuously in order to measure range as well as angle and velocity. This differs from traditional pulsed-radar systems, which transmit short pulses periodically.

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