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29 May 2013

Element Six acquires Group4 Labs to expand portfolio of synthetic diamond materials

Synthetic diamond materials firm Luxembourg-registered Element Six (part of the De Beers Family of Companies, and co-owned by Belgian materials group Umicore) has acquired the assets and intellectual property of Group4 Labs Inc of Menlo Park, CA, USA, which provides gallium nitride (GaN)-on-diamond wafer materials for RF and high-power devices. The asset acquisition will expand Element Six’s semiconductor portfolio for defense and commercial applications. 

Founded as a startup in 2003, Group4 has partnered with Element Six since 2008. Group4 developed what was claimed to be the first commercially available composite semiconductor wafer that includes GaN and diamond. Designed for manufacturers of transistor-based circuits with high-power, high-temperature and high-frequency characteristics, the first-ever GaN-on-diamond system enables rapid, efficient and cost-effective heat extraction. This process can reduce the operating temperatures of packaged devices, addressing heat issues that account for more than 50% of all electronic failures. Synthetic diamond dissipates heat up to five times better than existing materials, such as copper and silicon carbide, enabling device makers to produce smaller, faster and higher-power electronic devices with longer lifespans and improved reliability.

When implemented within power amplifiers, microwave and millimeter-wave circuits, GaN-on-diamond systems can provide benefits for defense and commercial applications including cellular base-stations, radar sensing equipment, weather and communications satellite equipment, and inverters and converters typically used in hybrid and electronic vehicles, it is claimed.

Element SixPicture: 100mm GaN-on-diamond wafer using Element Six’s synthetic diamond.

In April, RF front-end component maker and foundry services provider TriQuint Semiconductor Inc of Hillsboro, OR, USA said that it had demonstrated its new GaN-on-diamond high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMT) in conjunction with partners at the University of Bristol, Group4 and Lockheed Martin under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Near Junction Thermal Transport (NJTT) program. TriQuint has designed devices using this technology to achieve up to a three-fold improvement in heat dissipation (NJTT’s the primary goal) while preserving RF functionality. This would translate into a potential three-fold reduction in power amplifier size or increase in output power.

“GaN-on-diamond wafers are poised to take a center seat in many of our customers technology roadmaps, as new developments demonstrate its ability to dramatically reduce device temperatures, while maintaining output performance,” says Element Six’s head of technologies Adrian Wilson. “With the acquisition of the GaN-on-diamond process developed by Group4, we plan to continue to support the market’s growth trajectory, ramping up manufacturing capabilities to deliver innovative synthetic diamond solutions to meet emerging market demands,” he adds. 

“The scaling up of GaN-on-diamond wafer manufacturing volumes will need the unique heft, skill, and synergy of Element Six to make it possible,” says Group4’s chairman & CEO Felix Ejeckam. “Our customers will benefit enormously from this GaN-on-diamond process acquisition,” he believes.

See related items:

DARPA awards TriQuint contract to triple performance of GaN-based RF PAs

Tags: Element Six Technologies Group4 Labs GaN-on-diamond



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