TriQuint wins $12.3M GaN DARPA contract to develop ultra-fast power switch technology
May 02, 2012 // Jean-Pierre Joosting
TriQuint Semiconductor has been selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to lead a $12.3 million development program focused on ultra-fast gallium nitride (GaN) switch technology for the Microscale Power Conversion (MPC) program. TriQuint’s revolutionary GaN modulator has the potential to enable highly-efficient RF transmitters substantially smaller than current solutions.
TriQuint was selected by DARPA as the prime contractor for MPC Technical Area I, which seeks to develop a high-speed, DC-to-DC switch (modulator) and related process technology based on the company’s innovative enhancement-mode GaN transistors. This technology aims to improve the integration of power switches with advanced RF amplifiers to facilitate ultra-high efficiency, reduced-size amplifiers for radar and communications applications.
TriQuint has been a pioneer in GaN development and research since 1999. TriQuint currently leads multiple GaN process and manufacturing technology initiatives for DARPA including the Nitride Electronic NeXt-Generation Technology (NEXT) program as well as endeavors for the US Air Force, Army and Naval laboratories.
TriQuint is already exploring and bringing derivative devices to market made possible by milestones achieved in its many GaN programs. “The break-through performance demonstrated in ‘NEXT’ has helped us develop new devices, like our GaN power switches, that will open up additional radar and communications applications. We can substantially improve performance in these types of systems,” said TriQuint Vice President and General Manager for Defense Products and Foundry Services, James L. Klein. “This work is also leading to lower voltage GaN-based products. We see many exciting opportunities to develop more advanced RF amplifiers with integrated power switches.”
The enhancement mode power switching device for the MPC program will be designed to have a blocking voltage of 200 V, ultra-low dynamic on resistance of 1 ohm-mm and a slew rate of 500 V per nanosecond. These capabilities will provide state-of-the-art solid-state technology. RF amplifiers employing these switches will target 75% system efficiency at X-band (8-12 GHz).
TriQuint is teamed with Rockwell Collins, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Northrop Grumman—Technical Area II contractors—to create a new generation of RF power amplifiers that use contour modulation for very high efficiency performance that exceeds the capabilities of devices now available. Design approaches focusing on miniature system-in-a-package or monolithic integration to combine TriQuint’s switch / modulator with the power amplifier micro-system will be given preference.
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