NASA funds GaN-on-Si power amplifier development at Nitronex

May 1, 2012 — Gallium nitride (GaN) RF component maker Nitronex was awarded a NASA Phase I SBIR to develop a highly efficient 20W X-band GaN power amplifier MMICs, for use in long range RF telecommunications. The company will deploy its GaN-on-Si technology.

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This is the third X- or Ka- Band contract awarded to Nitronex. Since 2005, Nitronex has won 16 government contract awards that have funded the development of materials, devices, discretes, MMICs, and process technologies, as well as manufacturing maturation.

GaN has much higher power density than incumbent gallium arsenide (GaAs) technologies, allowing MMIC designers to achieve higher output power and higher system efficiency, increasing transmit power and reducing thermal and power management requirements at the system level.

GaN-on-Si HEMTs offer better thermal performance than GaN-on-SiC technologies. The GaN-on-Si technology uses 2mil-thick substrates, which have very low thru-wafer source inductance, compared to GaN-on-SiC-based HEMTs with substrates around 4mil thick, reducing amplifier gain. Silicon substrates can be packaged with gold-silicon (AuSi) die attach. “GaN-on-Si has inherent performance, reliability, manufacturing and cost advantages…for MMICs, which have large die sizes,” said Ray Crampton, VP of engineering, Nitronex.

Asif Anwar, Director, Strategy Analytics Strategic Technologies Practice recently stated, “Recent announcements indicate growing interest in GaN-on-silicon processing to reduce cost and higher voltage GaN processes which will improve power handling performance.”

Nitronex uses industry standard ultra-low loss semi-insulating silicon substrates having 0.05dB/mm loss at 10GHz for a 50ohm transmission line. Nitronex notes that the Si wafer-based technology enables manufacturing and cost advantages versus SiC-based technology, thanks to the scale and maturity of the Si-based semiconductor industry. “Leveraging our standard NRF1 production-qualified process with over 650,000 production devices shipped, our 0.25µm gate process platform has no known limitations compared to competing GaN technologies for X- and Ka- band applications,” said Crampton.

Nitronex Corporation designs and manufactures gallium nitride (GaN) based RF devices. For more information, please visit the Nitronex web site at

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