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TriQuint claims wideband RF revolution

Technology acquired in Peak Devices deal delivers high-efficiency RF power across an unprecedented bandwidth.

Transistor technology developed by TriQuint Semiconductor will revolutionize the field of RF system design, claims the pioneering III-V firm.

In its new line-up of discrete, high-power RF transistors, Oregon-based TriQuint has incorporated circuit design expertise developed via its August 2007 acquisition of the start-up company Peak Devices (see related story).

Coupled with improved circuit modelling software, that expertise allows for RF devices based on either silicon LDMOS, GaAs PHEMT or GaN semiconductor technology to provide high-power, high-efficiency RF performance over a remarkably wide range of frequencies.

Called "PowerBand", the novel approach delivers more than 50 per cent power-added efficiency (PAE) over the range 500 MHz to 3 GHz.

Currently RF designs can use up to a dozen individual devices, each reaching peak efficiencies across much narrower slices of the spectrum. PowerBand s extensive frequency coverage means that the same circuits could instead use just four transistors.

According to TriQuint CEO Ralph Quinsey, the result is a disruptive technology. "There are sure to be some skeptics," he said. "But the proof is here. We ve achieved results that are reproducible and manufacturable."

TriQuint is launching its first family of PowerBand devices at this week s MILCOM show in San Diego, although at the moment only prototypes are available. Production volumes are expected in the second quarter of 2009.

The initial line-up includes a single silicon LDMOS device, and five different transistors made using the GaAs PHEMT process. Two of the GaAs devices operate at 12 V, one delivering 10 W and the other 20 W. The remaining three GaAs transistors all operate at 28 V, with the most powerful of these offering 50 W output.

All six of the transistors offer a PAE of at least 50 per cent across the 0.5-2 GHz range, with the 12 V GaAs PHEMTs yielding the widest bandwidth, up to 3 GHz.

Lead customer Milpower, a supplier of RF systems to the US defense and aerospace industry, says that the new technology doesn t just save board space in RF designs. The high efficiencies mean that battery life is much longer, and thermal management is more straightforward.

While the US defense sector is the first target for TriQuint, the chip manufacturer is also hopeful of deploying PowerBand transistors in commercial applications "“ perhaps even cell-phone handsets "“ in the longer term, and is already in talks with potential commercial partners.

Speaking to compoundsemiconductor.net, TriQuint said that although the new technology would reduce its customers bill of materials by cutting down the number of transistor die required, the innovation could open up new applications to GaAs technology.

Where previously system designers may have automatically chosen cheaper silicon LDMOS transistors for many applications, the greater flexibility of PowerBand devices featuring GaAs E/D-PHEMT technology would now make them stronger contenders, said the company.

Bill McCalpin, who co-invented the wideband technology at Peak Devices under the moniker "WiMOS", believes that its application to III-V materials will increase the number of markets it can be used in:

"The applications of this technology are vast," he said. "We encourage anyone who has an interest in the benefits of PowerBand technology to talk with us about their application requirements."

To download a video (29 MB) further detailing the merits of TriQuint s new transistor technology, click here.

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