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NASA awards Nitronex further funding for GaN PA development

The gallium nitride-on-silicon innovator will use the funding to research GaN X- and Ka- band power amplifiers

Designer and manufacturer of GaN based RF products, Nitronex, has been awarded a Phase I SBIR.

The aim is to develop a highly efficient 20W X-band GaN power amplifier MMIC for use in long range RF telecommunications.

Since 2005, Nitronex has won 16 government contract awards that have funded the development of materials, devices, discretes, MMICs, and process technologies, as well as manufacturing maturation.

This is the third X- or Ka- Band contract awarded to Nitronex, further enhancing Nitronex’s  GaN-on-Silicon power amplifier technology.

GaN has much higher power density than incumbent GaAs technologies, allowing MMIC designers to achieve higher output power and higher system efficiency. This allows system engineers to increase transmit power and reduce associated thermal and power management overhead, lowering size, weight, and power consumption (SWAP).

Nitronex says GaN-on-Silicon technology has several performance advantages over competing GaN-on-SiC offerings. GaN-on-Silicon HEMTs have industry-leading thermal performance using 2mm thick substrates, which have very low thru-wafer source inductance. GaN-on-SiC-based HEMTs have optimum thermal performance with substrates around 4mm thick, but this results in higher thru-wafer source inductance, reducing amplifier gain.

What's more, silicon substrates can use thermally superior gold-silicon (AuSi) die attach rather than other methods required by non-silicon substrates.

Nitronex uses industry standard ultra-low loss semi-insulating silicon substrates having 0.05dB/mm loss at 10GHz for a 50Ω transmission line, similar to that of GaAs, which is used upto frequencies significantly higher than even Ka band. Reuse of the silicon industry’s mature supply chain results in manufacturing and cost advantages versus SiC-based technology.

“GaN-on-Silicon has inherent performance, reliability, manufacturing and cost advantages, especially when used for MMICs, which have large die sizes. We believe GaN-on-Silicon is an enabling technology for high-performance, high-reliability, and cost effective MMIC products.” says Ray Crampton, VP of Engineering. “Leveraging our standard NRF1 production-qualified process with over 650,000 production devices shipped, our 0.25 micron gate process platform has no known limitations compared to competing GaN technologies for X- and Ka- band applications.”
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