DARPA’s Project for Ultra-Linear High-Speed GaN Transistors Advances to Next Phase

A team of researchers at HRL laboratories, 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.

HRL has demonstrated a low-noise GaN high-electron-mobility transistor (HEMT) with record linearity for such devices – the ratio between output third-order intercept power (OIP3) and DC power consumption (PDC). An OIP3/PDC of 20 dB at 30 GHz was achieved, this is at least 10 times greater than conventional GaN HEMTs [ as showcased at the 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].

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Dr. Jeong-Sun Moon stated that they began their 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. 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.

Dr. Moon added that they are excited by the challenges presented by the phase 2 goals and they are confident in their abilities to carry the DREaM project forward.

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.