SAN FRANCISCO—RF chip supplier TriQuint Semiconductor Inc. said Tuesday (May 1) it was selected by the the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to lead a $12.3 million development program focused on ultra-fast gallium nitride switch technology for DARPA's Microscale Power Conversion (MPC) program.
TriQuint (Hillsboro, Ore.) claims its new GaN modulator has the potential to enable highly-efficient RF transmitters substantially smaller than current solutions.
TriQuint said it was selected by DARPA 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 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, according to the company.
TriQuint, which has been a pioneer of GaN development and research since 1999, currently leads multiple GaN process and manufacturing technology initiatives for DARPA including the Nitride Electronic NeXt-Generation Technology (NEXT) program as well as endeavors for the U.S. Air Force, Army and Naval laboratories, the company said.
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, TriQuint said.
Last month, TriQuint announced it would work with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to develop high-frequency and mixed-signal ICs based on GaN technology. Last week, TriQuint said it would cut an unspecified number of jobs in Florida and Costa Rica as part of a plan to restructure its surface acoustic wave filter manufacturing to move to higher-valued products and next generation packaging technology.
TriQuint said Tuesday that the enhancement mode power switching device for the MPC program will be designed to have a blocking voltage of 200 volts, ultra-low dynamic on resistance of 1 ohm-mm and a slew rate of 500 volts per nanosecond—capabilities which TriQuint maintains will provide state-of-the-art solid-state technology. RF amplifiers employing these switches will target 75 percent system efficiency at X-band (8-12 GHz), TriQuint said.