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Transphorm Wins $1.4M Contract From DARPA

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Project focuses on developing alternative N-polar GaN on sapphire substrates for RF/mm-wave applications

US GaN company Transphorm has been awarded a $0.9 million contract with a $0.5 million option by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

This contract, W31P4Q-21-C-0009, commissions Transphorm to explore performance and cost boundaries for manufacturing an alternative Nitrogen polar (N-polar) GaN solution for DoD and Commercial RF/mm-wave applications. Transphorm will be responsible for delivering the epiwafer technology whereas the sub-contractor, University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), will fabricate the RF/mm-wave transistors.

The new project builds on Transphorm's history as well as ongoing work with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to establish a domestic resource and supply for RF GaN epiwafers, with emphasis on N-polar GaN, a technology that is proven to deliver greater benefits than today's more commonly used Gallium polar (Ga-polar) GaN for RF and mm-wave applications.

Transphorm will explore the use of sapphire substrates to achieve greater cost efficiency for N-polar GaN solutions compared to conventional Ga-polar on SiC solutions. The work output is expected to yield a stable, high quality thin-epi structure with its capability established by the high-performance transistors.

“We're thankful to DARPA for the opportunity and confidence to further define the N-polar GaN solution for RF applications. This project, coupled with our ongoing work to scale manufacturing with ONR support is an incredible opportunity for Transphorm to grow its position as a premium RF epiwafer supplier, our second business vertical. The goal now is to take that foundation and enable our RF epi customers to achieve more efficient RF power for the dollar,” said Mishra, CTO and co-founder of Transphorm.

“Sapphire is an attractive material choice for this purpose but has historically been dismissed as it has low heat conductance. We believe that, with innovative engineering, the program team can overcome that limitation and are excited for the chance to set that benchmark for the GaN RF industry.”

The potential value of N-polar GaN in RF/mm-wave applications as well as possibly for future power electronics is appealing given its extraordinary efficiencies at frequencies as high as 94 GHz. It is primed to directly benefit DoD systems along with applications for 5G, 6G, and beyond.

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