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GaN : The Power Of The Future

NXP has announced that it will be demonstrating its gallium nitride based products at the IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium in Montreal this week

Recognised as a compelling alternative to silicon for many RF applications, GaN technology has generated significant industry interest due to its performance advantage.

However, this material has faced significant challenges related to cost. But according to NXP, this may be a thing of the past.

At IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium in Montreal this week, NXP will demonstrate its full portfolio of first-generation GaN products in booth # 607, and discuss its vision and roadmap related to GaN.

Core to that vision is the concept of “mainstream GaN" – bringing economies of scale and over 30 years of experience in RF power transistors to enable innovation and a secure, reliable supply chain for RF GaN products.

NXP GaN wafer

“Since announcing our commitment to ‘mainstream GaN’ last year, we’ve received a great deal of interest in our GaN offerings and have worked intensively with a handful of key customers to refine our first-generation GaN portfolio," says Mark Murphy, director of marketing, RF power product line, NXP Semiconductors.

“At the same time, by offering our customers a choice between high-performance GaN and LDMOS – and in some situations a mix of both, we’re in the unique position of being able to offer unbiased choices for fully optimised designs, depending on the specific requirements of each application."

NXP currently offers engineering samples of its first-generation GaN products, including the CLF1G0035-50 and CLF1G0035-100 amplifiers for 50W and 100W broadband applications.

At IMS2012, NXP will demonstrate live application examples, including a multi-stage GaN line-up covering a 200 – 2700 MHz frequency band. Using NXP’s new CLF1G0060-10 driver, as well as the CLF1G0035-50 amplifier for the output stage, the GaN line-up features 50V GaN technology and excellent linearity. Due to the higher impedance levels of the 50V GaN process, broadband amplifiers can be integrated onto a single transistor.

Based on a 0.5µm gate-length technology developed in collaboration with the Fraunhofer IAF Institute in Freiburg, as well as United Monolithic Semiconductors (UMS) in Ulm, Germany, NXP’s first-generation GaN amplifiers feature excellent linearity without compromise in power, ruggedness and efficiency, significantly reducing component count and amplifier footprint. NXP’s collaboration with UMS and Fraunhofer IAF Institute also establishes a Europe-based supply chain for GaN technology.

NXP will be ramping up for volume production and offering engineering samples of additional GaN amplifiers in Q3 and Q4.

At the conference, NXP will also be featuring advanced applications using GaN, including a live Class E amplifier tuned for 2.45GHz, showing the breakthrough efficiency enabled by GaN. Featuring a transistor with internal Class E harmonic matching, the amplifier achieves best-in-class efficiency of 75.2% @ 24W at 2.45GHz. Based on a 0.25µm gate-length technology currently under development, NXP plans to make its high-efficiency Class E narrow-band GaN solutions available in 2013.

NXP is also developing a digital power amplifier using GaN switching transistors that offer higher efficiency than linear amplifiers. These switched-mode power amplifiers (SMPAs) can be used in multiple bands without any modification to the hardware, and will be a key driver of the “ultimate" base station of the future. Like NXP’s other GaN processes, the 0.25µm GHSM process uses SiC substrates for better reliability, superior RF performance, and enhanced thermal management, further underscoring the advantages of an unbiased approach to GaN.

While RF GaN has already gained significant traction in the aerospace and defense market, NXP is also focusing on future growth areas including wireless infrastructure and base stations, energy transfer, and the sensing and imaging markets.

NXP will discuss further highlights of its GaN roadmap during IMS2012 at a workshop on “The position of GaN within RF power-capable technologies: NXP’s view" on Thursday, June 21st at 10:50am Eastern Time, in the MICROAPPS Theatre.

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