15 June 2022
Finwave targeting 5G with 3DGaN FinFET technology
Founded in 2012 by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge Electronics has rebranded as Finwave Semiconductor Inc of Waltham, MA, USA (with offices in San Diego, CA and the Bay Area), as it aims to revolutionize 5G communications with its three-dimensional gallium nitride (3DGaN) technology, which features a 3D fin transistor (GaN FinFET) structure.
The benefits of 5G networks will never be fully realized without high-power, high-linearity millimeter-wave (mmWave) power amplifier technology, says Finwave. Current approaches are throttling 5G due to their inability to deliver the higher linearity and efficiency needed to solve uplink issues facing mmWave frequencies (which do not propagate nearly as far as microwave signals).
“Today’s 5G millimeter-wave networks are severely constrained by the inefficient performance of power amplifiers,” comments Joe Madden, chief analyst at Mobile Experts. “RF-SOI and CMOS technologies are used today instead of GaN because of the need to integrate logic circuits with the RF front end, but this brings significant tradeoffs in power consumption and heat dissipation. High-performance GaN-on-silicon brings a new option to the table that could make 5G millimeter-wave more practical.”
With 10 times higher breakdown electric field than silicon, high electron mobility and the ability to operate at higher junction temperature, GaN is poised to play a significant role for the next decade’s technology revolutions, says Finwave. At mmWave frequencies, GaN-on-Si amplifiers excel versus alternative solutions such as silicon CMOS, gallium arsenide (GaAs) pseudomorphic high-electron-mobility transistors (pHEMTs) or silicon germanium (SiGe) devices., the firm adds.
Finwave’s co-founders professor Tomas Palacios and Dr Bin Lu first teamed at MIT to invent several of the firm’s foundational technologies, including a novel type of GaN transistor based on a FinFET architecture. After being spun out of MIT, the company spent several years developing the technology further for manufacturing in standard silicon CMOS fabs. By 2020, Finwave demonstrated the first GaN insulating-gate FinFETs fabricated with 8” silicon CMOS tools.
“As GaN continues to gain market share from silicon, first in 4G high-power macro base-stations, then in fast chargers for mobile phones and laptops, we are convinced that the next biggest opportunity for GaN-on-Si will be 5G infrastructure and handset applications,” says Lu.
Finwave’s 3DGaN technology is said to significantly improve linearity, output power and efficiency in 5G mmWave systems – while greatly reducing costs for carriers. By leveraging high-volume 8” Si CMOS, Finwave’s devices benefit from both the cost model and scalability of silicon technology. “The combination of the outstanding electrostatic control and linearity of the GaN FinFET structure, with the cost model of silicon, and the scaling ability of state-of-the-art 8” – and, in the future, 12” fabs – makes 3DGaN a true game changer,” reckons Palacios.
“5G will be a huge engine for economic growth, making this a very exciting time to be working for a company that is bringing a disruptive, enabling technology to the market,” says executive chairman & chief strategy officer Jim Cable Ph.D. “I look forward to continuing to build our IP portfolio, and our product and customer base.”
Beyond 5G, Finwave aims to also bring its technology to artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and electric vehicles (EVs) and autonomous vehicles (AVs).
Finwave will be at the IEEE International Microwave Symposium (IMS 2022) in Denver (21-23 June), meeting with partners, industry experts and other interested parties.