DARPA DREaM program on track to develop new GaN transistors for use in radar, radio communications

MALIBU, Calif. Research and development laboratory HRL Laboratories is working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to develop the next generation of gallium nitride (GaN) transistors with dramatically improved linearity and reduced power consumption for use in electronic devices in such applications as radio communications and radar.

launched what it calls the Dynamic Range-enhanced Electronics and Materials (DREaM) program in 2017 as it looked for new designs and materials for radio frequency with breakthrough dynamic range in millimeter-wave (mm-wave) systems.

Under its agreement with DARPA, HRL’s is set to develop advanced ultralinear GaN transistors working in mm-wave frequencies that enable transmission and reception across the spectrum without distortion. The resulting transistors will enable secure ultrawideband that have higher data rates and reduced draw on the prime power source of their eventual platforms, such as ships or aircraft.

Jeong-sun Moon, HRL Laboratories’ principal investigator on the DREaM program, said of the project: “Our goal is to break the historic gap of the 10- 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 communication.” Moon is joined on the HRL Laboratories team by Joel Wong and Andrea Corrion.

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