1 March 2018
EpiGaN’s GaN/Si RF material technology at core of EU’s SERENA 5G project
© Semiconductor Today Magazine / Juno PublishiPicture: Disco’s DAL7440 KABRA laser saw.
EpiGaN nv of Hasselt, near Antwerp, Belgium - which supplies gallium nitride on silicon (GaN-on-Si) and gallium nitride on silicon carbide (GaN-on-SiC) epitaxial wafers for power switching, RF and sensors applications – has a key position in the new 36-month European Union research project SERENA (‘gan-on-Silicon Efficient mm-wave euRopean systEm iNtegration platform’), which began in January.
The project consortium unites ten major industrial and academic partners: Austria’s TECHNIKON GmbH (project leader), Sweden’s Ericsson AB, Infineon Technologies Austria AG, Belgium’s EpiGaN NV, France’s Ommic SAS, Sweden’s Totalförsvarets Forskningsinstitut, Germany’s Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Greece’s Institute of Communication and Computer Systems, Sweden’s Chalmers Tekniska Högskola AB and Germany’s Technische Universität Berlin.
SERENA aims to develop a beam-forming system platform for millimeter-wave multi-antenna arrays and to enable the functional performance of a hybrid analog/digital signal processing architecture beyond mainstream CMOS integration.
The objective of SERENA is a proof-of-concept prototype for optimizing the power efficiency and cost of mm-wave multi-antenna array systems. The architecture will be suitable for a wide range of applications such as safety radar, high-speed wireless communications, as well as imaging sensors for 5G and autonomous vehicles, all of which rely on active antenna arrays and electronic beam steering. The fundamental challenge is to produce high-performance antenna systems for the mm-wave range at viable price-points and low energy consumption.
The SERENA value chain will be based on breakthroughs in GaN-on-Si technology and volume packaging, contributed by EpiGaN through its GaN epiwafer technology which, with its in-situ SiN capping layer, provides what is claimed to be superior surface passivation and device reliability. Also, it enables contamination-free processing in existing standard CMOS silicon infrastructures. In-situ SiN structuring allows the use of pure and ultra-thin aluminium nitride (AlN) layers as barrier materials. By reducing the short-channel transistor effects, this results in what is said to be superior mm-wave performance.
“RF-GaN technology offers crucial performance advantages over incumbent LDMOS or GaAs technologies, such as greater bandwidth and energy efficiency,” says EpiGaN’s CEO Dr Marianne Germain. “Our GaN-on-Si technology delivers excellent power density and power-added efficiency (PAE), superior gain, and low RF losses up to 100GHz,” she claims. “By starting out with a fundamentally better semiconductor technology specifically designed for the mm-wave range, our customers realize superior and differentiating device performance for multiple RF applications.”
GaN is a key enabler of 5G wireless communications, which requires exceptionally high-speed connections for multimedia streaming, virtual reality, M2M, or autonomous driving. A fully developed Internet of Things (IoT) will experience lower latency and promote both spectrum and energy efficiency, notes EpiGaN. To realize these benefits, 5G systems need to rely on new semiconductor technologies such as GaN to fuel these innovations, the firm adds.