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TriQuint to speed up GaN power switching with $12.3 million

The firm is to develop highly-advanced, mixed-signal digital / RF gallium nitride circuits to pursue new opportunities in the MPC program

The Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has entrusted TriQuint with leading a $12.3 million development program focused on ultra-fast GaN switch technology for the Microscale Power Conversion (MPC) program.

TriQuint says its new GaN modulator has the potential to enable highly-efficient RF transmitters substantially smaller than current solutions. DARPA chose TriQuint as the prime contractor for MPC Technical Area I, which seeks to develop a high-speed, DC-to-DC switch (modulator) and related process technology based on the company’s innovative enhancement-mode GaN transistors. TriQuint’s technology aims to improve the integration of power switches with advanced RF amplifiers to facilitate ultra-high efficiency, reduced-size amplifiers for radar and communications applications. As a pioneer in GaN development and research since 1999, TriQuint currently leads multiple GaN process and manufacturing technology initiatives for DARPA including the Nitride Electronic NeXt-Generation Technology (NEXT) program as well as endeavours for the US Air Force, Army and Naval laboratories.   TriQuint is already exploring and bringing derivative devices to market made possible by milestones achieved in its many GaN programs. “The break-through performance demonstrated in ‘NEXT’ has helped us develop new devices, like our GaN power switches, that will open up additional radar and communications applications. We can substantially improve performance in these types of systems,” says TriQuint Vice President and General Manager for Defence Products and Foundry Services, James L. Klein. “This work is also leading to lower voltage GaN-based products. We see many exciting opportunities to develop more advanced RF amplifiers with integrated power switches.” The enhancement mode power switching device for the MPC program will be designed to have a blocking voltage of 200 V, ultra-low dynamic on resistance of 1 Ω-mm and a slew rate of 500 V per nanosecond. These capabilities will provide state-of-the-art solid-state technology. RF amplifiers employing these switches will target 75% system efficiency at X-band (8-12 GHz). TriQuint is teamed with Rockwell Collins, the University of Colorado at Boulder and Northrop Grumman, Technical Area II contractors, to create a new generation of RF power amplifiers that use contour modulation for very high efficiency performance that exceeds the capabilities of devices now available. Design approaches focusing on miniature system-in-a-package or monolithic integration to combine TriQuint’s switch / modulator with the power amplifier micro-system will be given preference.

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