Next gen GaN technology paves way for mainstream usage

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Innovative next generation products based on Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology are on display at IMS2011 this week, including a 50W wideband amplifier and power amplifiers for base stations.

GaN has high power densities and therefore the potential to expand into applications such as high power broadcast applications, where solid state power amplifiers built with vacuum tubes are still the norm. Traditionally, most base station power amplifiers are limited to specific applications, but rf specialist, NXP Semiconductors claims its new GaN process technology could pave the way towards a 'universal transmitter' that can be applied in multiple systems and frequencies. This could simplify transmitter production and logistics, and allow operators to switch between frequency bands to instantly meet demands in a base station's coverage area. Among the GaN based technology NXP is showcasing is the CLF1G0530-50 60W wideband amplifier which covers 500 to 3000MHz. The company is also providing live demos of 2.1 and 2.7GHz Doherty power amplifiers for base stations and a 100W amplifier, the CLF1G2435-100, covering 2.5 - 3.5 GHz. NXP has developed its high frequency, high power GaN process technology in collaboration with United Monolithic Semiconductors and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics. According to NXP, it is now uniquely positioned as the largest semiconductor company to offer both LDMOS and GaN solutions. The GaN devices are manufactured on SiC substrates for enhanced rf and thermal performance, while target end user applications include cellular communications, wideband amplifiers, ISM, PMR, radar, avionics, rf lighting, medical, CATV and digital transmitters for cellular and broadcast. John Croteau, senior vice president and general manager, high performance RF, NXP Semiconductors, said: "We were overwhelmed by the extraordinarily positive response to our GaN roadmap presentation at CS Europe earlier this year, from customers and partners, as well as other semiconductor companies - in large part due to the economies of scale we're able to bring to the equation. "As we release new products based on GaN, we'll also be working with our partners to build a European supply chain that optimises costs at every step in the value chain, and continue to offer our customers choice when it comes to selecting the best alternatives - LDMOS or GaN - for high efficiency applications." The GaN broadband power amplifiers are expected to be available for volume production at the end of 2011.