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TriQuint advances into next generation GaN products

The firm says it has made R & D breakthroughs in gallium nitride devices used for highly advanced, mixed-signal digital / RF circuits

TriQuint Semiconductor has begun work on Phase II of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) multi-year Nitride Electronic NeXt-Generation Technology (NEXT) program as a prime contractor.

To date, TriQuint has received $12.67 million in support of the NEXT contract.

NEXT was created by DARPA to research and develop devices suitable for complex, high dynamic range mixed-signal circuits for future defence and aerospace applications. Phase II of the NEXT program is contracted to last 18 months. 

TriQuint is already exploring and bringing to market derivative devices made possible by breakthroughs demonstrated in NEXT Phase I. “NEXT devices provide game-changing technology for substantially improving performance in applications like phased array radar and communications,” said TriQuint Vice President and General Manager for Defence Products and Foundry Services, James L. Klein. “The devices developed under ‘NEXT’ open-up applications for lower voltage GaN-based products, which achieve power densities at least four times higher than GaAs devices. The opportunities are exciting.”

TriQuint Senior Fellow Paul Saunier leads the NEXT program as principal investigator. Saunier and his team reported state-of-the-art results at the 2011 GOMACTech conference in Orlando, Florida. The team achieved an Ft > 240 GHz in a GaN circuit.

DARPA’s NEXT Phase I concentrated on fabricating very high frequency devices and meeting defined yield metrics. Phase II will concentrate on process development in the pursuit of increased yields while pushing the operating frequency to 400 GHz. Phase III will seek to extend the operating frequency to 500 GHz with still higher yields and reduced circuit size.

NEXT research also focuses on highly-scaled enhancement-depletion (E/D) mode GaN mixed-signal devices, similar to those used in GaAs E/D MMICs. TriQuint creates the latter, with integrated digital control functionality and power handling for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness. 

Beyond the NEXT activity, TriQuint is working on innovative enhancement mode power switching devices needed for ultra-high efficiency DC-DC converters integrated with RF amplifiers for radar, communications and EW systems. The technology is enabling greater sensitivity, while reducing prime power and cost.

TriQuinthas been engaged in GaN research and development for the defence and commercial markets since 1999 and has concentrated on performance and reliability. University partnersinclude Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of Notre Dame.

The firm was awarded the 2011 ‘Compound Semiconductor’ CS Industry Award for the DARPA ‘NEXT’ program.

The firm is also working on the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) & DARPA E-mode GaN program to develop integrated variable drain voltage supplies for power amplifiers.

In 2011, the R&D program with AFRL for GaN modules for mini-CDLs in UAVs was completed.

AFRL, ONR & NRL are also sponsoring the firm for the Title III program for GaN on SiC for use in radar/EW MMICs.

The firm offers a wide selection of GaN amplifiers, transistors and switches and a foundry service for 0.25-micron GaN on SiC on 100mm wafers for DC-18 GHz applications.
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