Highest Speed GaN Electronics Racing to the Finish Line

Top row L-R: Florian Herrault (HRL), Ignacio Ramos (HRL), Mauricio Pinto (University of Colorado Boulder), Chip Moyer (HRL), Hasan Sharifi (HRL), Dan Denninghoff (HRL), Andrea Corrion (HRL), Paul Watson (AFRL), Donald Lie (Texas Tech University). Bottom row L-R: Matthew King (HRL), David Chow (HRL), Tony Quach (AFRL), Bryan Sanbongi (AFRL), Aji Mattamana (AFRL), Jill Mayeda (Texas Tech University), Shawn Burnham (HRL). © 2018 HRL Laboratories.

HRL Laboratories’ New DARPA-funded Program seeks to Enable Maturation of Gallium Nitride Integrated Circuit Technology

HRL Laboratories, LLC, has received an awardfrom the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to significantly advance the technology and manufacturing readiness levels of its leading-edge millimeter-wave (mm-wave) T3 gallium nitride (GaN) electronics. Integrated circuits made by layering GaN onto silicon carbide substrate wafers offer the best combination of efficiency, output power, and survivability among radio frequency (RF) and mm-wave semiconductor technologies. This makes these GaN devices and monolithic microwave integrated circuits (MMICs) key components for next-generation radars, electronic warfare systems, and communications systems.

A GaN transistor wafer under an inspection probe. © 2016 HRL Laboratories.

“Until now, long cycle times and low technology maturity levels prevented adoption of HRL’s GaN electronics into military platforms,” said Dr. Florian Herrault, who heads up HRL’s Millimeter-wave GaN Maturation program. “This program will reduce the gap between our laboratory demonstrations of the world’s fastest GaN devices and real-world applications. With DARPA’s support we will seek to reduce process variations and decrease fabrication cycle time to constantly meet defense performance standards. The government needs access to an open foundry with mature and advanced GaN production processes. With our foundry, housed within our Microfabrication Technologies Laboratory, we’re intending to become one of the major suppliers of high-performance mm-wave GaN components.”

As part of this program, engineersfrom HRL’s Sensors and Electronics Laboratory conducted a workshop on October 29, 2018 to work with circuit designers from outside academic institutions and government laboratories on HRL’s T3 GaN MMIC technology process design kit.

“DARPA’s funding to support the maturing of HRL’s T3 GaN technology emphasizes the ongoing need for access to our foundry.  We are pleased with the overwhelming interest and participation from our academic, government, and commercial partners in HRL’s GaN technologies,” said Dr. Dan Denninghoff, who led the workshop. “These designers will be devising a wide range of MMICs for government projects that will be fabricated on multi-project wafers as part of this program.”

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California (hrl.com) is a corporate research-and-development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors specializing in research into sensors and materials, information and systems sciences, applied electromagnetics, and microelectronics. HRL provides custom research and development and performs additional R&D contract services for its LLC member companies, the U.S. government, and other commercial companies.

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