16 May 2022
ST and MACOM RF GaN-on-Si prototypes achieve technology and performance milestones
STMicroelectronics of Geneva, Switzerland and MACOM Technology Solutions Inc of Lowell, MA, USA (which designs and makes analog RF, microwave, millimeter-wave and photonic semiconductors, components and subassemblies) have announced the production of radio-frequency gallium nitride on silicon (RF GaN-on-Si) prototypes.
As the long-term incumbent RF power technology, silicon-based laterally diffused metal-oxide semiconductor (LDMOS) dominated early-generation RF power amplifiers (PAs). However, GaN can offer superior RF characteristics and significantly higher output power than LDMOS for the RF PAs, with high potential especially for 5G and 6G infrastructure. Further, GaN can be manufactured on either silicon or silicon carbide (SiC) wafers.
RF GaN-on-SiC can be more expensive because of the competition for SiC wafers from high-power applications and because of its non-mainstream semiconductor processing. On the other hand, the GaN-on-Si technology under development by ST and MACOM is expected to offer competitive performance paired with large economies of scale, enabled by its integration into standard semiconductor process flows.
Prototype wafers and devices manufactured by ST have achieved cost and performance targets that would allow them to effectively compete with the incumbent LDMOS and GaN-on-SiC technologies on the market, it is reckoned. These prototypes are now moving to qualification and industrialization. ST is on target to hit these milestones in 2022. With this progress, ST and MACOM have begun discussions to further expand their efforts to accelerate delivery of RF GaN-on-Si products to the market.
“The technology has now reached performance levels and process maturity where it can effectively challenge the established LDMOS and GaN-on-SiC and we can offer attractive cost and supply-chain advantages for high-volume applications, including wireless Infrastructure,” believes Edoardo Merli, Power Transistor Sub-Group general manager & executive VP at STMicroelectronics. “Commercializing RF GaN-on-silicon products is the next big milestone in our collaboration with MACOM and, with continued progress, we look forward to fully realizing the potential of this exciting technology,” he adds.
“Together, we continue to make good progress in moving the GaN-on-Si technology towards commercialization and high-volume production,” comments MACOM’s president & CEO Stephen G. Daly. “Our collaboration with ST is an important part of our RF power strategy, and I am confident that we can win market share in targeted applications where the GaN-on-silicon technology meets the technical requirements.”