HRL Laboratories to Develop Next Gen GaN Transistor for DARPA

DARPA has awarded HRL Laboratories with a project to develop the next generation of gallium nitride (GaN) transistors with improved linearity and noise figure with lower power consumption. The transistors are meant for use in electronic devices that manage the electromagnetic spectrum from radio communications to radars.

With the Dynamic Range-enhanced Electronics and Materials (DREaM) program, DARPA is seeking new designs and materials for radio frequency transistors with breakthrough dynamic range in millimeter-wave (mm-wave) systems. The goals of the HRL’s efforts under the DREaM program are to develop advanced ultra-linear GaN transistors working at mm-wave frequencies that enable transmission and reception without distortion across the spectrum. These transistors will enable secure ultra-wideband communications with higher data rates, while reducing their draw on the prime power source of their eventual platforms, such as ships or aircraft.

For the project, HRL will research novel materials and devices to develop ultra-linear GaN transistors with manufacturability. The goal is to break the historic gap of the 10 decibel rule of thumb in semiconductor transistor’s linearity figure-of-merit, which is linearity, divided by DC power consumption, by 100 times. Spectrally pure linear amplification requires prime power consumption, so the power saving enabled by this improvement will be huge, while meeting the demand of modern communications for wider bandwidths and higher data rates, including 5G wireless communication.

HRL Laboratories 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. It provides custom research and development and performs additional R&D contract services for its member companies, the U.S. government, and other commercial companies.