27 April 2012

NASA grants Nitronex Phase 1 SBIR award

Nitronex Corp of Durham, NC, USA, which designs and makes gallium nitride on silicon (GaN-on-Si) RF power transistors for the defense, communications, cable TV, and industrial & scientific markets, has been granted a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop a highly efficient 20W X-band GaN power amplifier monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) for use in long-range space RF telecoms.

Since 2005, Nitronex has won 16 government contract awards that have funded the development of materials, devices, discretes, MMICs and process technologies, as well as manufacturing maturation. This is the third X- or Ka-band contract awarded to Nitronex, further enhancing the firm’s GaN-on-Si power amplifier technology.

The firm highlights GaN’s much higher power density than incumbent gallium arsenide (GaAs) technologies, allowing MMIC designers to achieve higher output power and higher system efficiency. This allows system engineers to increase transmit power and reduce associated thermal and power management overhead, lowering size, weight and power consumption (SWAP).

Nitronex claims that its GaN-on-Si technology has several performance advantages over competing GaN-on-SiC offerings. The firm adds that GaN-on-Si high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMTs) have industry-leading thermal performance using 2mil thick substrates, which have very low through-wafer source inductance. GaN-on-SiC-based HEMTs have optimum thermal performance with substrates around 4mil thick, resulting in higher through-wafer source inductance, reducing amplifier gain. Silicon substrates can use thermally superior gold-silicon (AuSi) die attach rather than other methods required by non-silicon substrates. Nitronex also uses industry-standard ultra-low-loss semi-insulating Si substrates with 0.05dB/mm loss at 10GHz for a 50 Ohm transmission line, similar to that of GaAs, which is used up to frequencies significantly higher than even the Ka-band. Re-use of the silicon industry’s mature supply chain also results in manufacturing and cost advantages versus SiC-based technology.

“GaN-on-Si has inherent performance, reliability, manufacturing and cost advantages, especially when used for MMICs, which have large die sizes,” says VP of engineering Ray Crampton. “We believe GaN-on-Si is an enabling technology for high-performance, high-reliability, and cost-effective MMIC products,” he adds. “Leveraging our standard NRF1 production-qualified process with over 650,000 production devices shipped, our 0.25 micron gate process platform has no known limitations compared to competing GaN technologies for X- and Ka-band applications,” he reckons.

Tags: Nitronex MMIC PA GaN

Visit: www.nitronex.com

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