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DARPA awards TriQuint $16.5m GaN extension

Third phase of project with the US Army includes epitaxy specialist IQE-RF, and SiC substrate supplier II-VI.

The US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have awarded a GaN development project led by TriQuint Semiconductor a further $16.5 million.

The latest funding represents phase three of DARPA's wide-bandgap program (WBGS-RF) to develop high-power amplifiers for defense applications, and follows similar backing of a Raytheon-led project (see related story).

Other compound semiconductor companies involved in this latest phase of the Triquint effort include IQE s RF division in New Jersey, and SiC substrate supplier II-VI.

Defense contractor giants Lockheed-Martin and BAE Systems are also involved in the two-year extension, while academic expertise in device physics and modeling is provided by Michael Shur from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Jesus del Alamo from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

TriQuint says that since starting the previous phase of DARPA s wide-bandgap semiconductor project back in 2005, improved power density, efficiency and device ruggedness have all been achieved.

This new phase will concentrate on further extending device reliabilities for 48 V and high-frequency operation in particular.

Working on the wideband high-power amplifier (HPA) element of the program, the TriQuint-led team was set the task of producing devices and MMICs that operate over more than one decade of frequencies (2-20 GHz), including the X-band.

Other key tasks now include material optimization, plus device and MMIC development. "The contract emphasizes reliability, yield, uniformity and reproducibility," TriQuint said.

Ultimately, the development of GaN processes and devices should result in smaller, more efficient amplifiers for the US military, with spin-off benefits to civilian applications set to follow.

TriQuint itself began offering GaN foundry services a year ago, and has already released amplifiers based on the material for applications in wireless communications networks.

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