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Element Six acquires Group4 Labs` GaN-on-diamond IP and assets

Synthetic diamond enables higher performance gallium nitride devices. This results in smaller, faster and higher power electronic devices for defence and commercial applications
Element Six has acquired the assets and intellectual property of Group4 Labs, Inc. (Group4), a specialist in GaN-on-diamond semiconductor technology for RF and high-power devices.

The acquisition will expand Element Six's semiconductor portfolio for defence and commercial applications. The assets were acquired through an assignment for the benefit of creditors from Group4 (Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors), LLC.

Group4 claims to have developed the first commercially available composite semiconductor wafer that includes GaN and diamond. Designed for manufacturers of transistor-based circuits with high power, temperature and frequency characteristics, the GaN-on-diamond system enables rapid, efficient and cost-effective heat extraction.

GaN-on-diamond wafer

This process reduces the operating temperatures of packaged devices, addressing heat issues that account for more than 50 percent of all electronic failures. Synthetic diamond dissipates heat up to five times better than existing materials, such as copper and SiC, enabling device manufacturers to produce smaller, faster and higher power electronic devices, with longer life spans and improved reliability.

When implemented within power amplifiers, microwave and millimetre wave circuits, GaN-on-diamond systems pose numerous benefits and applications within the defence and commercial sectors. This includes deployment in cellular base stations, radar sensing equipment, weather and communications satellite equipment, and inverters and converters typically used in hybrid and electronic vehicles.

The Group4 GaN-on-diamond technology was a critical element of TriQuint Semiconductor's device, which won the Compound Semiconductor Industry Award in March. TriQuint demonstrated its new GaN-on-diamond, high electron mobility transistors (HEMT) in conjunction with partners at the University of Bristol, Group4 and Lockheed Martin under the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Near Junction Thermal Transport (NJTT) program.

TriQuint has designed devices using this technology to achieve up to a three-fold improvement in heat dissipation, the primary NJTT goal, while preserving RF functionality. This would translate into a potential reduction of the power amplifier size or increasing output power by a factor of three.

"GaN-on-diamond wafers are poised to take a centre seat in many of our customers technology roadmaps, as new developments demonstrate its ability to dramatically reduce device temperatures, while maintaining output performance," says Adrian Wilson, head of technologies for Element Six.

He continues, "With the acquisition of the GaN-on-diamond process developed by Group4, we plan to continue to support the market's growth trajectory, ramping up manufacturing capabilities to deliver innovative synthetic diamond solutions to meet emerging market demands."

Founded as a startup in 2003, Group4 has partnered with Element Six since 2008. "The scaling up of GaN-on-diamond wafer manufacturing volumes will need the unique heft, skill, and synergy of Element Six to make it possible," says Felix Ejeckam, Chairman and CEO of Group4. "We believe that our customers will benefit enormously from this GaN-on-diamond process acquisition."

Element Six's Technologies division continues to experience strong market success, growing 20 percent per annum.

Element Six is a member of the De Beers group of companies. The firm designs, develops and produces synthetic diamond supermaterials. It operates worldwide with its head office registered in Luxembourg, and primary manufacturing facilities in the U.S. China, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, South Africa and the U.K.

The firm's supermaterial solutions are used in applications such as cutting, grinding, drilling, shearing and polishing, while the extreme properties of synthetic diamond beyond hardness are already opening up new applications in a wide array of industries such as optics, water treatment, semiconductors and sensors.

The 100 mm GaN-on-diamond wafer uses Element Six's synthetic diamond to enable high performance semiconductor technology, allowing manufacturers to produce smaller, faster and higher power electronic devices.

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