News Article

Cardiff University-led Consortium Wins £5m For RF GaN Research


SMARTExpertise funding award marks ‘topping out’ of a new high-tech centre to be built on Cardiff campus

A consortium led by Cardiff University's Centre for High Frequency Engineering and the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult has won £2.4m in Welsh Government SMARTExpertise funding to develop high-frequency electronic devices for next generation technologies - from 5G and radar to satellite systems. Eleven industrial partners have pledged a further £2.8m of support.

The industry-led project will involve partners in the South Wales compound semiconductor cluster -CSConnected - working in chip design, fabrication, innovative waveform-based characterisation, testing and production. It will help researchers develop RF GaN technologies to make high speed, cost-effective, higher reliability and smaller chips that outperform traditional silicon.

Khaled Elgaid, who leads the academic team, said: “GaN is quickly becoming the technology of choice for many emerging applications, including 5G communications, high-resolution phased-array radars, electronic warfare equipment, automotive collision avoidance radar, healthcare and imaging applications.

“The popularity of GaN stems from the attractive properties the technology exhibits, including high operating voltage and high operational frequency (supporting emerging 5G markets providing high-efficiency tele-communications system, with higher data rate and wider coverage area). In addition, the high-power density and excellent thermal performance offers compact designs and operational robustness in hostile environments, including space applications.”

The funding announcement coincided with a ‘topping out' ceremony for Cardiff University's Translational Research Facility, a high-tech centre designed by HOK London Studio that will house researchers and industry involved in compound semiconductor and catalytic science. The facility is being built by the construction company Bouygues. Education Minister Kirsty Williams, Bouygues UK CEO Rob Bradley and Cardiff University vice-chancellor Colin Riordan ‘topped out' the facility by adding their signatures to a beam on the building's highest point. (They are pictured above (r to l): Kirsty Williams, Colin Riordan and Rob Bradley.)

Welcoming the award, Kirsty Williams said: “I am looking forward to today's visit to learn more about the real opportunities being created through the SMARTExpertise programme in Wales.

“The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and offers financial support to innovative collaboration projects between industry and Welsh research organisations.

“These collaborative projects address strategic industrial challenges and provide opportunities to commercialise new products, processes or services and growth in key areas.”

Rob Bradley added: “Topping out employs an age-old construction industry tradition to mark the most modern of technical buildings. We are very proud to mark the high-point of the Translational Research Facility - a centre for world-leading sciences that will bring benefits for industry and the wider economy.”

Riordan said: “The SMARTExpertise RF-GaN award perfectly complements the topping out of our state-of-the-art Translational Research Facility. The building and the project are devoted to working with industry to unlock the power of research. The Cardiff Innovation Campus will be a true Home of Innovation.”

Compound Semiconductor Cluster

Cardiff University is a founding member of CSConnected - a cluster of CS expertise across South Wales which brings together academic, industry and supply chain partners.

The University has developed the Institute for Compound Semiconductors - to be based within the TRF - and founded the Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC), a joint venture with wafer company IQE to help translate CS academic knowhow into job creation with industry. Cardiff's School of Engineering will work alongside the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult (CSAC) and ICS to deliver the CS project.

Tudor Williams, head of RF & Microwave at CSA Catapult said: “It is exciting that the CS Cluster has the opportunity to deliver a substantive project that will fill gaps identified in GaN RF devices across the UK supply chain. The SMARTExpertise project has a strong consortia with end users in defence and consumer markets driving a tailored technology development. SMART Expertise will be a catalyst for future projects and activities, leading to tangible economic benefits for both Wales and the UK.”

Cardiff Catalysis Institute will also be based in the Translational Research Facility. The Institute is improving the understanding of catalysis, working with industry to develop new catalytic processes and promoting the use of catalysis as a sustainable 21st century technology.

The Institute's director, Duncan Wass, welcomed the ceremony. “The Translational Research Facility will provide the Cardiff Catalysis Institute with bespoke facilities that allow us to build on our outstanding track record for developing fundamental academic research that fulfils the needs of industry.”

The building is due to open on the Cardiff Innovation Campus in 2021.

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