DARPA to Take Nitride-based Electronics Research to the NEXT Level
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to take research on nitride-based electronic devices and integrated circuits – used in tactical radio systems, phased array radar, and satellite communication – to the next level. Or should we say the NEXT level?
That is the name of their research effort: the Nitride Electronic Next Generation Technology (NEXT) Program. The NEXT program is designed to enable revolutionary advances in nitride electronic devices and integrated circuits resulting in their ability to operate at very high frequencies while maintaining extremely favorable voltage breakdown characteristics.
There’ll be no tweaking of existing technology. On its NEXT Web site, DARPA declares: “Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.” In other words, only Big, Hairy, Audacious Research need apply…
DARPA has so far awarded 3
Sept 4/09: HRL Laboratories received a $16 million contract to conduct advanced nitride electronics research under the NEXT Program (HR0011-09-C-0126).
Sept 15/09: Northrop Grumman Space & Mission Systems received a $28.9 million contract to research device and integration technologies necessary to realize enhancement and depletion mode nitride transistors that simultaneously provide extremely high-speed and high-voltage operation in a process consistent with large scale integration in circuits of 1,000 or more transistors (HR0011-09-C-0132).
Northrop Grumman’s work on the contract will support defense communications, aircraft and space systems. The first phase of the contract totals $12.4 million.
Oct 12/09: TriQuint Semiconductor received a $16.2 million multiyear contract to create complex, high dynamic range gallium nitride-based circuits for future defense and aerospace applications (HR0011-10-C-0015).
The initial phase of the TriQuint NEXT research will run 2 years. The company will focus on circuits that can operate at 300 GHz with essential yield levels of a small circuit. The 18-month 2nd phase will push the operating frequency to 400 GHz while increasing yield and circuit size. The 3rd and final 12-month segment will seek to extend the operating frequency to 500 GHz while also substantially increasing yield and circuit size, Triquint said. The goal of the research program is to provide more power and greater frequency to military devices that use nitride technology.
TriQuint was also a winner of a contract under DARPA’s multi-phase Wide Bandgap Semiconductor Technology Initiative (WBGS-RF). That initiative will enable new RF applications and capabilities through the development and exploitation of the material, device, and circuit properties of wide bandgap semiconductors.
TriQuint announced June 2/09 that it won the lead role on Phase III of the WBGS-RF inititiave, which focuses on gallium nitride (GaN) research and development. The Phase III contract, awarded by the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and funded by DARPA, was based on TriQuint surpassing Phase II goals.
TriQuint began execution of the Phase II GaN program (valued at $15.8 million) in 2005. The next phase of the program (valued at $16.5 million) seeks to extend device reliability for 48V operation while increasing operational lifetime and extending performance to cover the high end of frequency ranges. This phase is expected to be completed in 2 years. The ARL in Adelphi, MD manages the contract (W911QX-05-C-0087).
“GaN: DARPA’s 3-Pronged R&D Strategy” has more on DARPA’s GaN research.