TRW and NASA develop highest frequency chips reported

Pasadena, California–Indium phosphate (InP) chips developed jointly by TRW Inc. and the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), boasting a frequency of 215 GHz, are believed to be the highest frequency ICs ever reported. The chips were developed to enable increased data rates, while shrinking the size and increasing the overall performance capabilities of next-generation satellite communications and remote sensing payloads.

The chips’ frequencies are significant, because the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates international spectrum allocation, recently opened spectrum in the 70 to 180 GHz bands to future radio, satellite communications, radar and radio astronomy applications.

The low-noise amplifier (LNA) millimeter wave monolithic ICs were fabricated using TRW’s 0.07-micron gate high electron mobility transistor process, which offers state-of-the-art gain and noise figures at operating frequencies ranging from 100 billion cycles per second (100 GHz) to 215 GHz.

“High frequency and low-noise are critical parameters for next-generation telecommunications and scientific satellite applications,” says Dwight Streit, TRW’s vice president and executive director, Advanced Semiconductors. “The diversity and performance of these LNA chips underscores success in developing a stable, robust, process for fabricating high-frequency, high-performance InP millimeter wave monolithic ICs. That process serves as the foundation of our plans to apply the technology to a broad range of commercial and government applications.”

TRW, based in Cleveland, Ohio, now offers a family of high-frequency InP millimeter wave monolithic ICs that includes a 3-stage, single-ended 112 to 120 GHz LNA providing 15 dB of gain and a noise figure of 4 to 5 dB; a 3-stage, single-ended 165 to 190 GHz LNA with a demonstrated 14 dB of gain and a noise figure of 7 dB; and a 6-stage, single-ended 160 to 215 GHz LNA with 15 to 27 dB of gain and a noise figure of 8 dB at 170GHz.

TRW recently completed building a high-volume InP production facility that will produce InP for rapidly growing telecommunications market applications including fiber optic transmission systems, mobile wireless communications, and broadband wireless services. Fabrication equipment is currently being installed, with initial production scheduled for early 2001.


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