everything RF interviewed Takaki Murata, vice president and general manager of Peregrine Semiconductor’s high performance analog (HPA) business unit, to learn more about Peregrine’s history, the impact since the Murata acquisition, UltraCMOS® technology and more.
Six months ago, Takaki was promoted to VP and GM of the HPA business unit. HPA serves over 4,000 global customers in diverse end markets ranging from wireless infrastructure and automotive to Internet of Things (IoT) and energy. Takaki had previously served as vice president of business development inside HPA - a role he began in early 2015. A long-time veteran of Murata, Takaki has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and over a decade of experience at Murata.
Q. Can you give us a brief history about Peregrine Semiconductor?
Takaki Murata: Peregrine’s history is fueled by innovation, RF silicon-on-insulator (SOI) breakthroughs and persistence. In the 1980s, Peregrine’s founders began diligently solving the technical challenges to make advanced SOI commercially feasible for RF applications. Their research initially focused on a type of SOI technology called silicon on sapphire (SOS). SOS, in spite of showing great promise, was demonstrating manufacturing problems that had led the other semiconductor companies to abandon further development. While the rest of the industry deemed it impossible, Peregrine’s founders persisted, and, after years of research and development, the “aha moment” came in 1988 with a significant substrate breakthrough that was published in a foundational research paper. Two years later, Peregrine Semiconductor was founded in 1990. Today, Peregrine is recognized by the industry as the founders of RF SOI and is a leading fabless provider of high-performance, integrated RF solutions.
Q. In late 2014, Peregrine was acquired by Murata. What has been the impact of this acquisition?
Takaki Murata: For over a decade, Murata and Peregrine have enjoyed a successful partnership, and the acquisition only accelerated an already flourishing collaboration. With the acquisition, Murata - “the Innovator in Electronics” - gained a new competitive edge - the semiconductor know-how and RF expertise of the “founders of RF SOI.”
In early 2015, I joined Peregrine as the vice president of business development and was immediately impressed by the caliber of talent and innovation at Peregrine. Peregrine is a company of visionaries, innovators and problem solvers, and Murata has encouraged and invested in this pioneering spirit. Since the acquisition in December 2014, Peregrine’s team has grown by 40 percent, our patent portfolio has expanded by 50 percent and Murata has invested in our long-term strategies in areas such as 5G and energy.
Q. Peregrine is a fabless company. Which SOI fabs do you work with?
Takaki Murata: Peregrine works with tier-one fab, GLOBALFOUNDRIES. Through this relationship with GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Peregrine has made several industry-leading advancements. UltraCMOS 11 technology, introduced in July 2015, was the industry’s first RF SOI 300 mm platform, and UltraCMOS 10, introduced in October 2013, delivered the industry’s best RON COFF performance, at the time.
Q. Peregrine is best known for its UltraCMOS® process. What is it? How is it different from other RF SOI processes?
Takaki Murata: Peregrine’s UltraCMOS® technology uses highly insulating substrates (SOI or SOS) and leverages the scalability of CMOS manufacturing. Unique to the industry, Peregrine incorporates advanced substrate, process and RF product co-design to yield results. Peregrine is committed to giving RF engineers the widest range of design flexibility, providing the right component for the parameters of the application. That’s why Peregrine provides several SOI platforms including UltraCMOS 11, UltraCMOS 10 and UltraCMOS SOS.
Q. What is your UltraCMOS roadmap?
Takaki Murata: With each new generation of the UltraCMOS technology platform, Peregrine targets a 20-percent improvement in RON COFF performance. RON COFF, a key metric for RF switching, is a ratio of how much loss occurs when a radio signal goes through a switch in its ON state (RON, or on-resistance) and how much the radio signal leaks through the capacitor in its OFF state (COFF, or off-capacitance). This commitment to continuous UltraCMOS improvement has enabled Peregrine to consistently break perceived barriers in RF SOI.
Time and time again, Peregrine’s history reflects a pattern of industry firsts, and many UltraCMOS products are the first of their kind or solve an industry problem that was thought impossible. This year, 2016, was no exception. In March, our award-winning DOCSIS RF switch set a new record for high linearity, and, in May, we announced the industry’s first high frequency RF SOI mixer. Two months later, we unveiled the world’s fastest GaN FET driver for power management applications, and, in October, we took RF SOI to new heights with the world’s first 60 GHz RF SOI switches. In 2017 and beyond, Peregrine Semiconductor will continue to break barriers in RF SOI.
Q. What are the main advantages of UltraCMOS technology vs. competing technologies?
Takaki Murata: Peregrine’s monolithic UltraCMOS technology provides significant advantages over competing mixed-signal processes—such as gallium arsenide (GaAs), silicon germanium (SiGe), BiCMOS and bulk silicon CMOS - in applications where RF performance, low power and integration are paramount. Because UltraCMOS devices are fabricated in standard high-volume CMOS facilities, Peregrine's products benefit from the fundamental reliability, cost effectiveness, high yields, scalability and integration of CMOS, while achieving the peak performance levels traditionally delivered by technologies such as GaAs and SiGe.
Q. Recently, Peregrine introduced the 1st high frequency RF SOI mixer. Can you tell us a little about this product?
Takaki Murata: The PE41901 - the industry’s first high frequency RF SOI mixer—joins Peregrine’s mounting list of RF SOI breakthroughs. Announced in May 2016 at the International Microwave Symposium (IMS), the PE41901 image reject mixer is a complete monolithic microwave integrated circuit (MMIC) solution that provides a reliable and repeatable solution for frequency-mixing applications. It integrates two mixers, a local oscillator (LO) path 90-degree coupler and RF port baluns on a single die. Integrating these functions provides good image rejection, reduces LO leakage and improves LO to RF isolation. Supporting a broad RF frequency range of 10 to 19 GHz, this mixer operates with single-ended signals on the RF and LO ports, and it can be used as an upconversion or downconversion mixer. The PE41901 is ideal for high frequency applications such as test and measurement systems and Ku-band earth terminals, including point-to-point communication and very small aperture terminal (VSAT) systems.
Q. In 2015, Peregrine introduced their first monolithic phase and amplitude controller (MPAC) built on the UltraCMOS process. What is the main advantage of the Peregrine MPAC built on the UltraCMOS process versus similar solutions built with GaAs?
Takaki Murata: The main advantage of UltraCMOS technology versus GaAs boils down to two words - intelligent integration. Peregrine’s MPAC product family is the perfect example of the term and concept of “intelligent integration.” While integration has traditionally offered high-volume markets the benefit of lower costs, intelligent integration is focused on performance advantages such as flexibility, configurability, smaller footprint, reliability, repeatability and ease-of-use. Intelligent integration is defined as the unique design ability to integrate RF, digital and analog components on a single die. It is not integration for its own sake; intelligent integration is deliberately focused on providing greater system capability and operational flexibility.
The entire MPAC product portfolio showcases the intelligent integration capabilities of Peregrine’s UltraCMOS technology. Each controller seamlessly integrates RF, digital and analog components on a single, monolithic die. MPAC–Doherty products integrate a 90-degree hybrid splitter, digital phase shifters (DPS), a digital step attenuator (DSA) and a digital serial peripheral interface (SPI). On a single die, MPAC–Beamforming devices integrate a digital step attenuator (DSA), a phase shifter, RX/TX switching and a digital serial interface.