HRL Advances to Next Phase in DARPA DREaM Project for Ultra-linear High-speed GaN Transistors

HRL Laboratories’ DREaM project for DARPA brings the next generation of gallium nitride transistors for greatly improved linearity, noise reduction, and reduced power consumption on electronic devices for communications, radar, and 5G wireless networks. © 2020 Getty Images.

HRL Laboratories’ Research Devices Exceed Target Metrics to Enter Exclusive Phase 2

At HRL Laboratories, LLC, a team led by Principal Investigator Dr. Jeong-Sun Moon is developing the next generation of gallium nitride (GaN) transistors that will have a dramatic effect on electronic components that amplify electromagnetic signals for communications, radar, and 5G wireless networks. The ultra-linear monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) amplifiers that utilize these high-speed GaN transistors can see greatly improved linearity, noise reduction, and reduced power consumption.

Moon’s team has successfully met and exceeded the performance metrics defined by the Dynamic Range-enhanced Electronics and Materials (DREaM) program, a Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) effort to improve dynamic range in millimeter-wave (mm-wave) electronics.

The DREaM project’s ultralinear GaN HEMTS enable secure ultra-wideband communication with higher data rates while reducing power draw on end-user platforms, such as ships, aircraft, or satellites. © 2020 HRL Laboratories.

HRL has demonstrated a low-noise GaN high-electron-mobility transistor (HEMT)  with a record linearity for such devices – the ratio between output third-order intercept power (OIP3) and DC power consumption (PDC). The OIP3/PDCof 20 dB at 30 GHz was achieved, at least 10 times greater than conventional GaN HEMTs [International Microwave Symposium, 2019]. In parallel, HRL’s DREaM GaN transistors demonstrated state-of-the-art power-added efficiency (PAE) of greater than 70% at 30 GHz, a vast improvement over reported PAE of other mm-wave T-gated AlGaN/GaN HEMT devices [Electronics Letters, April, 2020].

“We began our efforts in the DREaM project to develop advanced ultra-linear GaN transistors for mm-wave frequencies that enable transmission and reception without distortion across the electromagnetic spectrum,” Moon said. “This technology will enable secure ultra-wideband communication with higher data rates, while reducing the draw on the power sources of end-user platforms, such as ships, aircraft, or satellites.”

With the initial goals reached, DARPA will now take the DREaM program into its second phase. With an even more challenging amplifier performance goal of 94 GHz, DARPA hopes to implement wideband low-noise amplifiers with ambitious end-user needs in mind.

“We are excited by the challenges presented by the Phase 2 goals and we’re confident in our ability to carry the DREaM project forward,” said Moon.

HRL Laboratories’ team also includes engineers Bob Grabar, Joel Wong, Mike Antcliffe, Erdem Arkun, Isaac Khalaf, Peter Chen, Chuong Dao, Andrea Corrion, and Dave Fanning.

This material is based upon work supported by the United States Air Force under Contract No. FA8650-18-C-7802.  Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United States Air Force.

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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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