Record efficiency achieved in GaN high-frequency transistors

March 25, 2020 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Record efficiency achieved in GaN high-frequency transistors
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF have succeeded in significantly increasing the output power of their GaN-based transistors for the frequency range of 1 - 2 GHz. This makes it possible to develop highly efficient amplifiers with higher output power, as required for applications in the fields of plasma generation, industrial heating, and communication and radar technologies.

There are several ways to increase the power density of transistors. Researchers at Fraunhofer IAF have chosen the path of increasing the operating voltage: By scaling the transistor design vertically and laterally, they succeeded for the first time in Europe in realizing high-frequency transistors suitable for applications at an operating voltage of 100 V. These components based on the semiconductor gallium nitride (GaN) are characterized by a significantly increased power density at frequencies in the GHz range.

The performance of these newly developed components for the frequency range of 1 - 2 GHz has been demonstrated in the laboratory. Measurements showed a power density of more than 17 W/mm and a power efficiency (PAE) of 77.3 percent at a frequency of 1.0 GHz. This is the highest power efficiency achieved for 100 V operation in this frequency range ever reported. Tests have even shown that this technology has a power density of over 20 W/mm at 125 V.

"By increasing the operating voltage from 50 to 100 volts, higher power densities are possible. This means that a system can deliver more power over the same area than is possible with commercially available 50 V or 65 V technologies," explains Sebastian Krause from Fraunhofer IAF, one of the main developers of the technology.

On the one hand, this makes it possible to produce more powerful systems of the same size. On the other hand, it will also make it possible to create more compact and lighter systems with the same performance. "By doubling the operating voltage to 100 V, the transistor has an output impedance four times higher for a given power," explains Krause. This makes it possible to implement smaller and thus less lossy matching networks, which in turn results in higher energy efficiency of the overall system.

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