JED - March 2015 - (Page 41)

How Far Can We Take GaN Technology? Gallium Nitride Settles Into Maturity By Barry Manz The Journal of Electronic Defense | March 2015 41 L ike a baby bird booted from the nest, gallium nitride (GaN) RF power transistors made the transition in the mid-2000s from the laboratory to deployment in one perilous leap. Not quite a nascent technology, but nevertheless developmental, it delivered to the Army's RCIED jammers the power required for the mission. Less than a decade later, GaN is a maturing technology, is finding its place alongside silicon laterally diffused metal oxide semiconductor (LDMOS) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) devices, and has been propelled into the merchant world much faster than was GaAs, the technology whose development it is most often compared to. For the defense and perhaps some commercial infrastructure markets, the full promise of GaN will be years in coming - but well worth the wait. GaN development is comparable to that of GaAs, as it was driven by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and other arms of the DOD. In the early 1980s, DARPA realized that electronically steered (i.e., active) phased array radars would require solidstate rather than traveling-wave tube RF power amplifiers. The Microwave and Millimeter-Wave Integrated Circuits (MIMIC) program, created by DOD in the late 1980s and administrated by DARPA, endeavored to bring together the disparate efforts of those working on GaAs devices and MMICs to speed their deployment in transmit-receive modules and other defense systems. It had the additional goal of creating a merchant market that would reduce costs, making GaAs RF power devices suitable for commercial applications. This seven-year, $750-million effort is now the stuff of microwave legend, as it essentially achieved exactly what was intended. Today the GaAs device market alone generates billions of dollars in revenue and has arguably made highperformance mobile phones and other "wireless-enabled" devices possible - and affordable. The trajectory of GaN has been much the same. DOD determined that the next generations of Active Electronically-Steered Array (AESA) radar and EW systems, as well as communications systems would require more than GaAs MMICs can deliver. As GaN appeared to be the only viable technology, DOD - again through DARPA and other government entities - challenged industry to do for GaN what the MIMIC program did for GaAs. Based on GaN's current status, the results are likely to be just as substantial.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of JED - March 2015

The View From Here
Conferences Calendar
Courses Calendar
From the President
The Monitor
World Report
Charting the Future for DIRCM
How Far Can We Take GaN Technology?
Book Reviews
EW 101
AOC News
2015 AOC Industry Member Guide
Index of Advertisers
JED Quick Look

JED - March 2015

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