25 October 2012
RFMD wins $2.1m DARPA GaN contract to boost thermal efficiency of high-power RF amplifiers
RF Micro Devices Inc of Greensboro, NC, USA has been awarded a $2.1m contract from the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to enhance the thermal efficiency of gallium nitride (GaN) circuits used in high-power radar and other military systems.
The award is in association with the Near Junction Thermal Transport (NJTT) effort of DARPA’s Thermal Management Technologies (TMT) program. The goal of the NJTT initiative is to achieve a 3x or greater improvement in power handling from GaN power amplifiers through improved thermal management of the near-junction region. By combining thermally enhanced diamond substrates with RFMD’s GaN-on-SiC high-power technology, RFMD expects to significantly improve power density and power handling capability.
RFMD will be working with DARPA to apply new technologies to its existing portfolio of GaN-based high-power RF amplifier products, says Jeff Shealy, VP & general manager of RFMD’s Power Broadband business unit. “We expect the NJTT program will result in a new generation of higher-performing, more compact RF high-power amplifiers (HPAs) with lower operating temperature and greater RF power-per-unit area,” he adds.
RFMD’s partners in the program include the Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Group4 Labs, and Boeing. The firm says that Georgia Tech is recognized for its expertise in thermal testing, modeling and micro Raman thermography. Stanford University is reckoned to be the world leader in thermal measurement of the critical interface layers within a transistor die. Group4 Labs is a pioneer in the development of diamond substrates. Boeing plans to evaluate the resulting technology to assess its projected impact on future defense systems.
RFMD has been active in GaN technology since 2000 and has production released two high-power process technologies (available through its open-foundry business model). The firm’s GaN power devices have been deployed across multiple defense and commercial applications, including radar, milcom, and CATV infrastructure. RFMD also manufactures GaN-based CATV broadband amplifiers, and has shipped more than 350,000 GaN-based CATV amplifiers into the commercial market.
Previously, in September, RF front-end component maker TriQuint Semiconductor Inc of Hillsboro, OR, USA received a $2.7m NJTT contract from DARPA to triple the power handling performance of GaN circuits, building on TriQuint’s GaN-on-SiC technology and its RF integrated circuits in partnership with the UK’s University of Bristol (for expertise in thermal testing, modeling and micro Raman thermography), Group4 Labs, and Lockheed Martin (evaluating the results for the projected impact on future defense systems).