JED - August 2016 - 35

TECHNOLOGY SURVEY

A SAMPLING OF SOLID STATE POWER AMPLIFIERS
By Ollie Holt

Output Power (Watts)

104
103

SiC

102

GaN

101
1

GaAs

10-1

SiBJT

1

100
10
Frequency (GHz)

Many different solid-state technologies can be
used to build SSPAs. The different technologies have
varying output powers and operational frequency
ranges, which are shown in the figure to the right.
For example, Silicon Carbide (SiC) provides the highest power possible, but is only able to perform up to
approximately 5 GHz. Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) and
Gallium Nitride (GaN) provide much higher operating
frequencies. GaN has become the "go to" technology
for high-frequency SSPAs. Note that Silicon Bipolar
Transistor (SiBJT) is still used in some low-power,
low-frequency applications.
GaN was originally used in Light Emitted Diodes
(LEDs). It has a wide bandgap of 3.4 eV, making it
suitable for applications in optoelectronics, as well
as high-power and high-frequency devices (i.e., EW
SSPAs). GaN has a low sensitivity to ionizing radia-

tion, which makes it an appropriate material for
military and space applications that require high
stability in radiation environments. GaN transistors
also operate at much higher temperatures and higher
voltages than other solid-state transistors.
This survey requested information on parameters that impact the performance of SSPAs. First,
the survey lists the operational frequency range of
the SSPA. This defines the lower to upper frequency
range of the SSPA listed.
The next column in the table, "gain," defines the
increase in power that can be achieved from input
to output. Multiplying the input power by the gain
equals the output power, as long as the amplifier operates in the linear region. Typically, a power amplifier is in the linear operating mode if the maximum
input power limit is not exceeded.
In the next column of the table, dBc relative to
the carrier is a measure of how much higher the carrier signal is with respect to harmonics or spurious
signals created within the device. For most applications, the larger this value, the better the SSPA's
performance. Also, note that when the input power
exceeds the maximum, the amplifier will start operating in non-linear mode. In this mode, the harmonics and spurious signals will continue to increase
in output power, but the signal will not, until the
signal's output power and the spurious output power
are equivalent.
Efficiency is defined as the power-added efficiency (PAE). This is the output power (RF) minus
the input power (RF) divided by the DC power. In
high-gain systems, the results are almost the same
as efficiency (output power divided by input power),
but in low-gain systems, the efficiency can be very
different. In this survey, the input power (DC power)
is the average input power. For a pulsed system, the
PAE is calculated using input power (DC) when the
pulse is created as opposed to the average.
The next item is reliability. Reliability is a probabilistic value of how many hours the product may operate before failure. In this case, the reliability value
is the manufacturer's derived length of time the typical SSPA will operate under stated conditions.
Next month, we will look at manpack COMINT and
DF systems.

The Journal of Electronic Defense | August 2016

I

n JED's March issue, the product survey focused
on traveling wave tube (TWT) and microwave
power module (MPM) amplifiers. This month's
survey continues to look at power amplifiers,
but focuses on solid state power amplifiers
(SSPAs) for the defense market. SSPAs have
advantages over other power amplifiers including
lower operating voltages and higher reliability.

35



JED - August 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of JED - August 2016

The View From Here
Conferences Calendar
Courses Calendar
From the President
The Monitor
World Report
Cyber Blitz: US Army Gains New Insight for EW/Cyber Operational Integration
Technology Survey: Solid State Power Amplifiers for EW, Radar and Communications Applications
EW 101
Threat Monitor
AOC Election
Index of Advertisers
JED Quick Look
JED - August 2016 - cover1
JED - August 2016 - cover2
JED - August 2016 - 3
JED - August 2016 - 4
JED - August 2016 - 5
JED - August 2016 - The View From Here
JED - August 2016 - 7
JED - August 2016 - insert1
JED - August 2016 - insert2
JED - August 2016 - Conferences Calendar
JED - August 2016 - 9
JED - August 2016 - Courses Calendar
JED - August 2016 - 11
JED - August 2016 - From the President
JED - August 2016 - 13
JED - August 2016 - 14
JED - August 2016 - The Monitor
JED - August 2016 - 16
JED - August 2016 - 17
JED - August 2016 - 18
JED - August 2016 - 19
JED - August 2016 - 20
JED - August 2016 - 21
JED - August 2016 - World Report
JED - August 2016 - 23
JED - August 2016 - Cyber Blitz: US Army Gains New Insight for EW/Cyber Operational Integration
JED - August 2016 - 25
JED - August 2016 - 26
JED - August 2016 - 27
JED - August 2016 - 28
JED - August 2016 - 29
JED - August 2016 - 30
JED - August 2016 - 31
JED - August 2016 - 32
JED - August 2016 - 33
JED - August 2016 - 34
JED - August 2016 - Technology Survey: Solid State Power Amplifiers for EW, Radar and Communications Applications
JED - August 2016 - 36
JED - August 2016 - 37
JED - August 2016 - 38
JED - August 2016 - 39
JED - August 2016 - 40
JED - August 2016 - 41
JED - August 2016 - EW 101
JED - August 2016 - 43
JED - August 2016 - Threat Monitor
JED - August 2016 - 45
JED - August 2016 - 46
JED - August 2016 - AOC Election
JED - August 2016 - 48
JED - August 2016 - Index of Advertisers
JED - August 2016 - JED Quick Look
JED - August 2016 - cover3
JED - August 2016 - cover4
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