28 July 2022
Finwave raises $12.2m in Series A round to bring 3DGaN to volume production
Finwave Semiconductor Inc of Waltham, MA, USA has raised $12.2m in a Series A round of funding led by Fine Structure Ventures with additional participation from Citta Capital, Soitec, Safar Partners and Alumni Ventures. This follows an award of $4.3m in federal funding from the US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) SCALEUP (Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential) grant, to help bring the company’s three-dimensional gallium nitride (3DGaN) technology to volume production. The funds will be used to expand the company’s team, product development activities and lab facilities.
Founded in 2012 by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as Cambridge Electronics before being rebranded this June as Finwave Semiconductor (with offices in San Diego, CA and the Bay Area), the firm aims to revolutionize 5G communications with its 3DGaN technology, which features a 3D fin transistor (GaN FinFET) structure.
“3DGaN FinFET technology is a result of over 10 years of research and development, initially developed at MIT and recognized with the coveted 2012 IEEE Electron Device Society George Smith Award,” notes Finwave’s CEO & co-founder Dr Bin Lu. “The enormous potential of GaN FinFETs has since been demonstrated by a growing number of researchers around the world,” he adds.
“The company combines best-in-class power amplification efficiency with high-volume manufacturing to overcome the performance and cost limitations that have together stymied widespread adoption of mmWave,” comments said Jennifer Uhrig, senior managing director at Fine Structure Ventures, a venture capital fund affiliated with FMR LLC, the parent company of Fidelity Investments.
Millimeter-wave (mmWave) is critical to the future of all wireless technology, but the realization of its potential faces severe roadblocks, says Finwave. Weak uplink, high deployment costs, low 5G radio efficiency and soaring operating costs are all combining to thwart the promise of mmWave. Currently, 5G networks are being held back from realizing their true potential due to a critical missing component: high-performance mmWave power amplifier technology, the firm adds.
High-performance GaN-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) could make 5G millimeter-wave more practical. At mmWave frequencies, GaN-on-Si amplifiers excel versus alternative solutions such as radio-frequency silicon-on-insulator (RFSOI) MOSFETs, gallium arsenide (GaAs) pseudomorphic high-electron-mobility transistors (pHEMTs) or silicon germanium (SiGe) devices, says Finwave. The firm claims that its 3DGaN technology significantly improves linearity, output power and efficiency in 5G mmWave systems – while greatly reducing costs for carriers. In 2020, Finwave demonstrated the first GaN insulating-gate FinFETs fabricated with 8” silicon CMOS tools. By leveraging high-volume 8” silicon CMOS fabs for producing 3DGaN chips, the firm’s devices benefit from both the cost model and scalability of silicon technology.
“Finwave was founded with the mission to scale the technology from lab to high-volume products that benefit society, and 5G presents the perfect market opportunity for the scale, performance gains and cost advantages this technology brings,” says Bin Lu. “Having solved numerous manufacturing challenges and successfully created a fabrication process using standard 8” Si CMOS tools, Finwave is leading the way in commercializing the 3DGaN technology for 5G,” he adds.
“After spending 30 years working in silicon-on-insulator technology and being an early pioneer in getting this technology into every cell phone on the planet, the opportunities for Finwave’s 3DGaN GaN-on-silicon technology are enormous,” comments Finwave’s chief strategy officer & executive chairman Dr Jim Cable. “I personally understand the challenges of ramping up a new technology into high-volume markets, and we are very focused on all aspects of enabling this. Closing this Series A round is a major step forward for us.”
Beyond 5G, Finwave aims to also bring its technology to artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous vehicles (AVs).