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Nitronex Snubbed By RF HIC's Cree Switch

RFHIC says that GaN-on-SiC devices can be competitive with products manufactured on silicon wafers, thanks to economies of scale offered by its strategic partner Cree.

Cree announced that it had signed a strategic agreement with the fabless Korean wireless component manufacturer to supply it with GaN HEMTs at the beginning of June. This replaces the alliance that RFHIC entered in 2006 with Cree’s Durham, NC, neighbor Nitronex, which produces GaN devices on silicon substrates.

Now, RFHIC’s chief technology officer Samuel Cho has indicated that the latest deal is part of a clear move away from GaNon- silicon. “We converted our product line and future direction to Cree’s GaN-on-SiC HEMT technology based on its superior thermal and electrical characteristics as well as its outstanding robustness and reliability," he said. “Cree is the clear winner."

The high-volume LED manufacturing business that Cree is better known for is founded on its SiC expertise, and RFHIC says that this is a major attraction. Cree’s fab overhead will be shared with its SiC power products, which should bring “a significant cost benefit" in the long run, RFHIC told Compound Semiconductor. The collaboration strategy will see Cree focus on device and transistor-level products, and RFHIC working on hybrid and pallet amplifiers.

In response to Cho’s comments, Nitronex director of marketing Ray Crampton claims that his company’s latest products have better thermal performances than its competitors’ offerings. “We have won major military designs at tier one customers based on performance and robustness advantages over SiC-based GaN HEMTs," he said. “Our robustness is proven and accepted, as is our electrical and thermal performance."

“While I respect the potential of any competitor, RFHIC has not shown the ability to take advantage of the performance benefits of GaN and I don’t expect them to be a significant player on the competitive field."

GaN development for RF applications owes a great deal to the DARPA Wide- Bandgap Semiconductor (WBGS) program, which has featured Cree in the largest of its three development projects.

In March Raytheon, which has collaborated with Cree on this project, was the first to announce that it had entered phase III of WBGS with a $23.9 million contract. Fellow WBGS pioneer TriQuint gained $16.5 million to progress the strand of the project in which it is leading Lockheed-Martin, BAE Systems, II-VI and IQE RF in early June.

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