GaN goes mainstream as costs drop

June 20, 2012 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Recognized as a compelling alternative to silicon for many RF applications, GaN (gallium nitride) technology has generated significant industry interest due to its performance advantages, but has faced significant challenges related to cost — until now.

At the IEEE MTT-S International Microwave Symposium in Montreal this week, NXP Semiconductors is demonstrating its full portfolio of first-generation GaN products, and discussing its vision and roadmap related to GaN. Core to that vision is the concept of “mainstream GaN” — bringing economies of scale and over 30 years of experience in RF power transistors to enable innovation and a secure, reliable supply chain for RF GaN products.

“Since announcing our commitment to ‘mainstream GaN’ last year, we’ve received a great deal of interest in our GaN offerings and have worked intensively with a handful of key customers to refine our first-generation GaN portfolio,” said Mark Murphy, director of marketing, RF power product line, NXP Semiconductors. “At the same time, by offering our customers a choice between high-performance GaN and LDMOS — and in some situations a mix of both — we’re in the unique position of being able to offer unbiased choices for fully optimized designs, depending on the specific requirements of each application.”

NXP currently offers engineering samples of its first-generation GaN products, including the CLF1G0035-50 and CLF1G0035-100 amplifiers for 50 W and 100 W broadband applications. At IMS2012, NXP will demonstrate live application examples, including a multi-stage GaN line-up covering a 200 to 2700 MHz frequency band. Using the CLF1G0060-10 driver, as well as the CLF1G0035-50 amplifier for the output stage, the GaN line-up features 50 V GaN technology and best-in-class linearity. Due to the higher impedance levels of the 50 V GaN process, broadband amplifiers can be designed on a single transistor.

Based on a 0.5 µm gate-length technology developed in collaboration with the Fraunhofer IAF Institute in Freiburg, as well as United Monolithic Semiconductors (UMS) in Ulm, Germany, NXP’s first-generation GaN amplifiers deliver high linearity without compromise in power, ruggedness and efficiency, significantly reducing component count and amplifier footprint. Thes collaboration with UMS and Fraunhofer IAF Institute also establishes a Europe-based supply chain for