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RFMD wins DARPA GaN contract to enhance RF amplifiers

The firm will combine diamond substrates with its gallium nitride-on-silicon carbide power technology to improve power density and power handling
RF Micro Devices has been awarded a $2.1 million contract from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The money will be used to enhance the thermal efficiency of 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 DARPA NJTT initiative is to achieve a three times 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, the firm expects to significantly improve power density and power handling capability.

Jeff Shealy, vice president and general manager of RFMD's Power Broadband business unit, says, "RFMD is excited to work with DARPA to apply new technologies to our existing portfolio of GaN-based high power RF amplifier products. 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."

RFMD's partners in the program include the Georgia Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Group4 Labs, and Boeing.

Georgia Tech is recognised for its thermal testing, modelling and micro Raman thermography. Stanford University is an innovator in thermal measurement of the critical interface layers within a transistor die. Group4 Labs is a pioneer in the development of diamond substrates. Finally, Boeing plans to evaluate the resulting technology to assess its projected impact on future defence systems.

RFMD has been developing its GaN technology since 2000 and has production released two high power process technologies available through its open-foundry business model. The company's GaN power devices have been deployed across multiple defence and commercial applications, including radar, milcom, and CATV infrastructure. RFMD has so far shipped over 350,000 GaN-based CATV amplifiers into the commercial market.


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