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The Ultimate

Guide to GaN
How Do Silicon, SiC, Diamond,
and Sapphire Stack Up Beside GaN? .................................... 2
Characterizing, Modeling,
And Simulating GaN Transistors ..............................................9
Handling the Heat From GaN Devices ............................. 17
Boost Efficiency and Decrease Power
Dissipation of GaN Power Amplifiers................................24

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How Do Silicon, SiC,

Diamond, and Sapphire
Stack Up Beside GaN?

by Jean-Jacques DeLisle

When evaluating
substrate technologies
for GaN transistors,
designers need to
consider performance,
cost, and manufacturing
concerns before
selecting the right

iven the demand for gallium-nitride (GaN) semiconductor

technology and its potential, GaN can undeniably move from
low-volume specialized applications to larger-volume commercial
applications for the light-emitting-diode (LED), power-electronics,
and RF-device industries. The challenge now lies in developing
materials to pair as a substrate with GaN and then scaling that pairing to the
available market. The most viable options for substrates include silicon (Si),
silicon-carbide (SiC), sapphire, GaN, and synthetic diamond (Fig. 1). Each
substrate carries tradeoffs in its capabilities for insulation, thermal spreading,
mechanical strength, cost, and processing dynamics.
For example, compound-semiconductor-on-insulator technology has
been experiencing a rise in adoption over recent years, as legacy technologies
became less and less capable of meeting modern demand. To enable modern
trends in defense, aerospace, lighting, telematics, and wireless infrastructure,
many common parameters are being called for: data rates, power density,
frequency, bandwidth, cost, and robustness. For the RF/microwave industry,
however, adopting new technologies is an expensive and complex process.
These cost and adoption challenges stem from two competing values:
the need for high-volume/low-cost economy products for the wireless industry
versus the demand for low-volume/high-cost products for high-performance
applications. As a function of this divide, multiple technologies often surface

The Ultimate Guide to GaN

as a high-performance semiconductor demands even more

capable substrates than silicon at lower costs. The goal
is to limit the bottleneck on power density, frequency, and
bandwidth. For several years, silicon and sapphire have been
used in the LED lighting industry as GaN substrates. But
doors are now opening to SiC and even diamond for these
industries, which could change the cost dynamic for the RF
industry. Each substrate offers its own set of benets and
drawbacks. The RF industry will most likely adopt a mix of
these technologies to serve its many needs.

as fabrication facilities adopt a technology for massmarket applications that can be applied to low-cost RF
applications. Boutique processes also are adopted on a
high-cost custom basis. Because GaN is seen as such a
exible and powerful new technology, signicant efforts
have been devoted to realizing fabrication methods
that can lead to both high-performance and low-cost
production based on mass-market fabrication processes.
From this work sprang the incentive to develop silicon as
a substrate that can bridge both worlds. But GaNs capability

Figure 1: Material Properties of Competing RF Semiconductor Technologies

Currently, there is no mainstream semiconductor technology that can compete with GaN
for maximum frequency, power density, bandgap voltage, and saturation velocity.




Lattice Constant (anstrom)



Thermal Conductivity

Saturation Velocity
(cm/s in millions)


Electron Mobility
in thousands (cm^2/Vs)

Power Density

Ft FET (GHz in tens)

Bandgap (eV)

Source: Strategy Analytics

The most viable options for substrates include silicon (Si),

silicon-carbide (SiC), sapphire, GaN, and synthetic diamond.

GaN on Sapphire and GaN on GaN

thermal conductivities of all of the substrates. GaN-onSiC can serve much more compact power devices, as the
materials thermal conductivity and durability allow higher
temperatures over longer time periods. Additionally, GaNon-SiC has recently been explored as a solution for the LED
lighting, power, and even electric-vehicle industries. These
factors could lead to the development of SiC facilities that
decrease the relative cost of the SiC substrate, making it a
much more realistic option for mass-market applications.
Currently, SiC wafers range from 2 to 4 in., with some
facilities recently producing 6-in. wafers. In fact, some
manufacturers roadmaps call for SiC wafers ranging to
8 in., which may be warranted by demand from the LED
and power markets. Yet such manufacturing benets do
not outweigh the fact that SiC boules are grown as much
as 300 times more slowly than silicon boules. Scaling the
wafer size of SiC will help to reduce costs. But production
time and cost will still be high for GaN-on-SiC technology,
given capital depreciation and the energy consumption
required to produce SiC boules.
Its capability as an insulator also must be considered.
Although SiC is a reasonably good insulator, it performs
much poorer than both sapphire and diamond. GaNon-SiC products thus have higher internal parasitic
capacitances, which subsequently decrease the
frequencies of operation. This aspect may serve as a
long-term drawback, given the trend toward seeking everhigher frequencies of operation in the defense, electronicwarfare, microwave-backhaul, aerospace, imaging,
and sensing markets. Meanwhile, spectrum crowding
is forcing much tighter bandwidth and interference
requirements. Designing such stringent specications for

Sapphire has a long history of being used as an insulating

substrate for power and RF applications. The LED lighting
industry has been using sapphire as a substrate for some
time. Recently, it adopted GaN-on-sapphire technology
for its relatively low cost, durability, and transparent color.
Additionally, silicon-on-insulator (SoI) innovators have used
sapphire as a microwave aerospace substrate for decades,
as sapphire performs extremely well in rugged space
applications. Because sapphire has very poor thermal
conductivity, however, using sapphire as a substrate for
extremely power-dense RF/microwave applications may
not be viable.
For its part, GaN-on-GaN technology provides
an extremely well-matched substrate with very few
defects in the density of the epistructures. It also boasts
reasonable thermal performance. GaN as a substrate
is extremely resistant to radiation effects and is very
strong mechanically. As a substrate for high-performance
RF applications, though, GaN is rarely considered. GaN
substrates are highly specialized, found only in extremely
small wafer sizes measuring 2 in. GaN also is very
expensive as a limited commodity. For both sapphire
and GaN substrate, these factors reduce RF use to only
specialized applications, which are unlikely to benet from
mass-market cost reductions and larger wafer sizes.

Silicon Carbide
SiC has been used as a GaN substrate in the RF/
microwave industry for several yearsmainly in defense
and high-power wireless-infrastructure applications. In
addition to being very durable, SiC offers one of the highest

The Ultimate Guide to GaN

technology for a greater wealth of applications.

As a substrate, however, silicon has only slightly better
thermal conductivity than sapphire. It is the most brittle of
the potential substrates and the least insulating. Another
point of concern is that GaN has a hexagonal structure
of c-plane (0001). Yet the most viable silicon structure is
cubic (100), making it difcult to grow GaN lms on silicon
substrates. Given the technology benets of such a costreducing solution, however, research is being devoted to
developing better mechanical matching combinations.
Clearly, GaN-on-Si may not compete with the much
higher-performing material combinations. Yet, it could offer

frequency outputespecially at high powerscould be

difcult with a technology with higher parasitics.

Pros and Cons of GaN-on-Silicon

Because silicon substrates are used for the vast majority
of digital electronic devices, there is a large pull to
develop methods to integrate GaN on silicon (Fig. 2).
GaN technology could then benet from the large wafer
size, low cost, and high yields of silicon-based processes.
Eventually, GaN and CMOS circuits could even be
developed on the same die. This technology adoption also
would allow a wider array of foundries to produce GaN

Figure 2: Material Properties of Competing GaN Substrate

For each GaN technology application, there is a different cost-efficiency analysis that needs
to be employed to judge between the viability of various substrate technologies.




Thermal Conductvity (W/cmK)



Electrical Resistivity
@ RT (Ohm-cm in orders
of magnitude)


Wafer Diameter (in)

Young's Modulus [110] @ RT

(GPa in hundreds)

Source: Element Six

GaN-on-Si could offer a low-cost, high-volume, and high-yield

solution to compete with the gallium-arsenide (GaAs) market for
handhelds and other portable wireless technologies.

Figure 3: Thermal
Conductivity of Common
Heat Sink Materials
Including CVD Diamond




Thermal Conductivity (W/mK)

Chemical vapor deposited

diamond films outperform
the majority of common
heat-sink materials in raw
thermal conductivity.
(Courtesy of Element Six)


a low-cost, high-volume, and high-yield solution to compete with the galliumarsenide (GaAs) market for handhelds and other portable wireless technologies.
Current GaN-on-Si technologies have been shown to perform as well as GaAs
in terms of power. They may even offer greater power efciency. The major
competition for GaN-on-Si in this high-volume market is RF CMOS SoI, which
has met GaAs performance at much lower costs and with higher integration
viability. Yet, RF CMOS SoI is an unlikely solution for this application, as its
material property restrictions may prevent the technology from meeting the
power and efciency capabilities of GaN-on-Si.
It should be noted that many research organizations are looking at the
potential of developing GaN-on-Si for upper microwave and millimeter-wave
applications at tens of watts of power. This new adaptation will put GaAs and
indium-phosphide (InP) devices at a disadvantage, as GaN-on-Si raw materials
can be sourced in most regions at a fraction of the cost of these legacy materials.

In the extremely high-power and high-performance RF/microwave markets, the
exploration of chemical-vapor-deposition (CVD) synthetic diamonds is gaining
momentum (Fig. 3). This trend should not be surprising, given that diamond offers
high thermal conductivity, mechanical strength, and insulation characteristics.
These properties translate to very high power density. Raytheon, for example, has
reported factor-of-three improvements compared to GaN-on-SiC.
In terms of thermal conductivity, diamond is nearly a factor of ve higher
than SiC. As a result, it can allow higher-power circuits to be placed in smaller
areas. Diamonds extremely high electrical resistance also reduces capacitive
parasitics throughout a device. This aspect could enable much higher frequencies
of operation at higher power levels. In addition, GaN-on-diamond enables GaN
devices to operate at much higher ambient device temperatures. When operating
in applications like wireless base stations and mobile radar, a higher ambient
temperature could lead to less energy and costs associated with cooling.
Cooling considerations are certainly signicant, as devices like actively
electronically steered arrays (AESAs) require a large number of extremely highpower devices in a small area. Many organizations have looked to diamond as

The Ultimate Guide to GaN

Prior to choosing a substrate technology for a specific

application, many factors need to be considered.

a material solution for thermal heat sinking and thermal management in these
high-performance applications. Considering the material matching between a
diamond substrate and a diamond heat sink, there may be justication for the
high expense based on the material matching being signicantly more effective
at thermal transfer. Given diamonds signicantly different surface properties,
crystal structure, and thermal behavior, there also could be concerns over the
reliability of such devices.
Engineers with Element Six Technologies, the University of Zagreb, and
iMata Technologies performed tests with over 3,000 hours of operation at
350C to gauge the reliability of the material. At equivalent temperatures and
times, the GaN-on-SiC and GaN-on-Si devices failed, but the GaN-on-diamond
devices did not. This test demonstrates the high-reliability capabilities of GaNon-diamond technology (Fig. 4).
Understandably, GaN-on-diamond is expensive. But the technologys power
density offers the ability to develop highly compact devices that can operate
under extreme conditions while the device-per-wafer reduces costs. In many
applications, the increased performance could outweigh the negative cost
structure. Examples include electronic warfare, defense, aerospace, naval, and
wireless infrastructure.
If active cooling systems are not required for GaN-on-diamond devices, the
cost, size, weight, and versatility of the technology could be further augmented.
In fact, greater adoption and development could further reduce GaN-on-diamond
costs while increasing the technologys performance.
Ultimately, certain applications will be better served by each of the potential
GaN partner substrates. Prior to choosing a substrate technology for a specic
application, many factors need to be considered. For example, choosing a
lower-performing but established technology may serve the purpose of a massmarket application. As the defense, aerospace, naval, wireless infrastructure,
and satellite markets increase their device requirements, however, it is likely that
higher-performing device technologies will be adopted and developed to keep
the worlds leading militaries and industries at the cutting edge. GaNs impact
has already been felt in these areas. Given a pairing with the right substrate, its
reach will only grow.

Figure 4: CVD Diamond Heat

Spreader in RF Package

Degrees Cw


Thermal modeling based on

detail analysis of material
properties is used to gauge
the effectiveness of certain
materials in practical
applications, such as
conducting thermal energy
from a power amplifier device.
(Courtesy of Element Six)

The Ultimate Guide to GaN

Characterizing, Modeling, and

Simulating GaN Transistors

by Jean-Jacques DeLisle

As a stable and hard

material with high heat
capacity and thermal
conductivity, GaN
can be employed in
applications that are
too rugged for many
other high-frequency

ith the development of gallium nitride (GaN) as an

RF/microwave technology, modern devices are now
performing at levels that have not been seen outside
of highly specialized applications. To harness this
technologys potential, sophisticated characterization
and modeling techniques are needed to provide accurate simulations and,
therefore, designs. In todays fast-paced and competitive design landscape,
multiple integrated-circuit (IC) spins also must be avoided. Engineers are now
nding ways to condently develop models of GaN circuitseven when GaN
performance is approaching, and possibly surpassing, the fundamental capacity
of high-end test equipment.
Over the years, many methods have focused on the development of highly
rened models of gallium-arsenide (GaAs) high-electron mobility transistors
(HEMTs) and laterally diffused metal-oxide-semiconductor (LDMOS) eld-effect
transistors (FETs). Several of these techniques seem very promising for the
characterization of GaN or aluminum-GaN (AlGaN) HEMT transistors. But they do
not account for the physical and material nuances in the behavior of GaN devices,
which stem from its fabrication, applications, and nature as a wide-bandgap
(WBG) semiconductor. These nuances necessitate specialized techniques,

processes, and even new hardware to characterize GaN

devices. Only then can models be developed and effective
simulations be performed on the latest devices (Fig. 1).

Characteristics of GaN
To successfully generate models and properly
characterize devices, one must rst understand GaNs
characteristics. GaN is a WBG semiconductor with
intriguing electrical properties that enable it to be used as
a native material in applications ranging from high-power
and high-frequency electronics to ultraviolet laser diodes.
Much of GaNs versatility is derived from its electrical
characteristics of high electron mobility, saturation
velocity, and breakdown voltage. Additionally, GaNs

mechanical and thermal features provide a signicant

advantage in many applications.
As a mechanically stable and hard material with
high heat capacity and thermal conductivity, GaN can be
employed in applications that are too rugged for many other
high-frequency materials. Ongoing investigations are looking
into GaNs viability as a material for solar cells for satellites
and other aerospace applications, as it provides resistance to
ionizing radiation in addition to its rugged properties.
The deposition of GaN as a thin lm can be done
on sapphire, silicon carbide, silicon, diamond, or
other insulating materials. GaN is sufciently durable
mechanically to resist some damage, even considering of
the mismatch in their lattice constants.

Figure 1: Typical Nonlinear Compact Transistor Model

Modern compact modeling techniques require nonlinear circuit elements,
so as to capture the intrinsic behavior of a transistor. (Courtesy of AMCAD Engineering)











Source: Courtesy of AMCAD


The Ultimate Guide to GaN

GaN is a WBG semiconductor with intriguing electrical

properties that enable it to be used as a native material in
applications ranging from high-power and high-frequency
electronics to ultraviolet laser diodes.

boundaries of GaN device operation and effort.

GaNs limits are very high. The latest devices use
extremely high amounts of power per areaoften
between 5 to 30 W per millimeterand extremely high
operating temperatures of over 150C within the channel.
These conditions are far beyond other devices in GaNs
class, which underscores why modeling, characterizing,
and simulating GaN devices is a more complex and
application-specic process. In addition, the material
phenomena that arise with GaN HEMT devicesmainly
trapping effects, current collapse, and varying electrical
behavior as a function of its wide electrical and thermal
range of operationprove to be unique challenges when
developing reliable and accurate compact models.
Electron or hole-trapping effects are common in
compound III/V semiconductor-based transistors in the
surface passivation layer along the gate. Trapping can lead
to signicant degradation of electrical performance as well
as self-heating and device failure. The main failure modes
are the increase in gate leakage current and decrease
in threshold voltage. They occur as a function of hole
trapping while operating near breakdown and electron
trapping during saturation. Severe thermal conditions from
trapping within a device can produce, and accelerate,
overall thermally induced electrical degradation. Often,
these conditions are complex to model and simulate using
traditional methods.
Virtually all device characteristicsbreakdown
voltages, leakage currents, transconductance, gain,
power-added-efciency (PAE), and moredegrade with
increasing temperatures, noted Timothy Boles, technology
fellow/director of strategy for MACOM. In general,

As a semiconductor for high-power and highfrequency devices, GaN has proven that its promising
characteristics can provide benets for the latest
applications. Yet researchers and designers are still looking
for techniques to bring GaN device performance closer to
its maximum potential. Here, models that account for the
intricacies of this recently adopted material are critical.
The challenge lies in adapting testing and characterization
techniques, which are designed for materials with
signicantly inferior performance.
According to Dr. Christophe Charbonniaud, deputy
director and compact modeling leader for AMCAD, To
develop robust and accurate models for GaN devices,
an important number of measurements are needed,
and specic equipment with dedicated electronics
must be used. For example, pulsed current-voltage (IV)
measurement systems based on SiC devices have been
developed with breakdown voltages equivalent to or even
higher than the breakdown voltage of the GaN devices
typically characterized.
This need for specialized testing procedures and
equipment is of little surprise, as GaN devices operate with
roughly 10 times greater drain-to-source breakdown voltage
when compared to GaAs and silicon. It is this aspect that
enables GaNs much higher supply voltages, which in turn
leads to a lower current requirement for the same power
level, and, similarly, a lower power loss within the device. The
thermal buildup for a device depends upon these internal
losses. As a result, GaN devices generally exhibit many times
less thermal ux at equivalent power levels when compared
to GaAs or silicon. To a researcher and designer, this
means that more headroom must be invested to reach the


most materials become more resistive with increasing

temperature due to thermally induced interactions,
collisions, and scattering at an atomic level. This increase
in resistance is the basic cause of the parametric changes
in the device characteristics.

Customizing Tools and Techniques

This type of exploration requires tools and techniques
that are geared toward analyzing GaN devices in their
intended applications. Due to the exibility and durability
of GaN devices, testing GaN requires equipment that
can operate over extremely wide frequency, bandwidth,
power, and impedance ranges. For military and aerospace
applications, the equipment needs to also test under
extremely wide temperatures, vibration, mechanical
stressors, electromagnetic interference, electrical pulsing,
and radiation. Because GaN is suitable as a power-

amplier (PA) technologydue to its high-power handling

and supply voltagelinearity and electrical response to
modern communication techniques also comes into play.
Understandably, many companies have devoted
resources to developing software and hardware tools to
better characterize these devices. Some of these systems
can even develop models within the same environment
of software and hardware (Fig. 2). Just a few examples
include Keysight Technologies, National Instruments, Rohde
& Schwarz, Auriga Measurement Systems, AMCAD, Keithly
Instruments, Maury Microwave, and Optoelectronics.
Additionally, advanced measurement methods have been
rened to better detail the behavior of GaN devicesmainly
pulsed IV, pulsed S-parameter, nonlinear/multi-tone loadpull techniques, and modulation measurement methods.
Many GaN applications require the use of rapidly
varying current and voltage conditions within the device.

Figure 2: Model Development Cycle

Modeling a device now incorporates many iterative steps, consisting of
pulsed and static IV, S-Parameter, and load-pull measurements. (Courtesy of IEEE)

(Static/Pulse IV,

(Angelov, EEHEMT
CFET, etc.)

(IC-CAP, ADS, etc.)




Model Validation

Advanced Testing
(Load Pull
Pulse RF Measurements
Time Domain
Digital Modulation)

Source: Courtesy of IEEE


The Ultimate Guide to GaN

Due to the flexibility and durability of GaN devices, testing

GaN requires equipment that can operate over extremely wide
frequency, bandwidth, power, and impedance ranges.

As a result, more realistic testing is needed to better

understand the trapping and thermal characteristics of
GaN devices. These factors have led to the heavy use of
multibiased pulsed-IV and pulsed S-parameter testing to
extract the characteristics that are normally masked with
direct current (DC).
This technique enables excitation of the devices
with narrow pulses, often a few hundred nanoseconds
in length, said AMCADs Charbonniaud. This method
maintains the device in quasi-isothermal conditions. With
the pulsed-IV system, characterizations in critical areas
can be performed without degrading the devices, which
occurs with more conventional systems. The pulsedmode characterizations also permit the extraction of very
accurate transistor model parameters.
The pulsed characteristic measurements enable
the extraction of isodynamic equations or the trapping
and thermal parameters corresponding to quiescent
bias conditions. These elements are closer to real-world
behavior as long as bias conditions similar to those in the
desired operation are used. Such testing could aid in model
generation to prevent thermal failure modes, which would
not be apparent with DC IV testing. Pulsed S-parameter
measurements can further elaborate on the thermal
dependencies of a model regarding the self-heating effects
caused by electron action within the trap states in the
substrate and on the devices surface.
Boles explained the process: Device IV and terminal
characteristics are translated using commercial software
into a series of S-parameter les for multiple device sizes
in order to be able to project a reasonable scalability.
These extracted S-parameters are then compared and t
to measured S-parameters taken on the same devices.

This process is generally iterated until an acceptable match

of extracted and measured results is obtained.
For large-signal applications required for devices
that would be used in power-amplier applications,
making direct measurements is virtually impossible, due
to the low impedance values that result from the large
device periphery associated with high-power active
devices. For these applications, the device IV curves and
terminal characteristics are scaled and t to the expected

Putting GaN to the Test

Modern modeling and characterization systems handle
much of the iterative testing and intrinsic parameter
extraction along with the de-embedding of the
S-parameters. Initially, the extrinsic parasitic elements of
a device are extractedspecically, the capacitances,
inductances, and resistances produced by the technology
and process that degrade the device performance
away from ideal behavior. Next, the intrinsic parameters
are derived via explicit equations. They are iteratively
optimized over several rounds of testing over the whole
characterization bandwidth.
Ultimately, these compact models are only accurate
within the electrical and thermal regimes in which the
parameters were developed. To ensure a models viability for
a specic application, further testing is required. Such testing
must correspond to the demands of the application using
real devices. In modern use cases, such as high-powered/
rapid-pulsed radar jamming antenna arrays and extremely
high-throughput and complex telecommunication modulation
schemes, such testing is critical.
Here, linear and nonlinear load-pull and source-pull


testing come into play (Fig. 3). Advanced modulation

testing methods also are involved where applicable. The
term load/source pull is used to describe the varying of
impedances at the load and source of a deviceoften
a transistoras a method of deriving or validating its
operational characteristics. Impedance testing techniques
have advanced to include the following: harmonic, twotone, amplitude-modulation (AM); phase-modulation
(PM); adjacent-channel-power-ratio (ACPR); error-vectormagnitude (EVM); and time-domain testing. Special testing
devices, such as large-signal vector network analyzers
(VNAs) and nonlinear VNAs (NVNA), are used during
advanced load-pull testing to enhance the depth of the
data used for model validation. Load/source-pull tuners
are used to adjust the impedance over a wide power and
frequency range. Often, these tuners comprise mechanically
adjustable transmission-line segments. The voltage standing
wave ratio (VSWR) of a load/source-pull tuner is key to the
accuracy of the characterization measurements.

Different types of power measurementsone

tone, two tones, and measurements with complex
modulated signalsare used to validate the models,
noted Charbanniaud. Most of the time, the selected
signal corresponds to the targeted application. If model
adjustment is needed, this process facilitates exibility as
a function of the model topology.
He explained, In order to validate the model accuracy,
two tools are used. First, the characterization software,
such as IVCAD (with which the model has been extracted),
is used to compare the model with IV and S-parameter
measurements. And RF simulators, such as AWR Microwave
Ofce (MO) and Keysights Advanced Design Software (ADS),
are used to validate the models against different types of
simulations. The obtained model results are systematically
compared to the measurements performed under the same
conditions as dened in the simulation setups.
A devices large signal input and output impedance
can be derived by a real-time vector-receiver (VR) load/

Figure 3: Pulsed IV Test System

Load-pull techniques require a system of tuners, couplers, and test equipment cascaded
together to describe the impedance behavior of the input and output of a DUT.
(Courtesy of Maury Microwave)

Power meter


Pulsed system

Signal generator





Source: Courtesy of Maury Microwave


The Ultimate Guide to GaN

source-pull system (Fig. 4). Through effective calibration

of the VR impedance measurement system to the device,
the mismatch between the devices input and source
impedance can be eliminated from the model. This deembedding of the devices input impedance behavior over
a range of conditions enables an accurate power gain
description. It also could reveal stability concerns that would
be masked by less rigorous testing. A better understanding
of a devices power gain over the full range of operation also
provides a clearer picture of the devices linearity.
Increasingly, time-domain load/source-pull
measurements are being used to validate the
response of a model. After all, simple frequencydomain measurements may fail to fully describe device
operationespecially under nonlinear conditions. These
measurements are often performed with an NVNA.
Additionally, there are newer techniques to simulate the
varying of the source impedance. Called virtual sourcepull, this simulated source-pull technique enables an

automated characterization system to rapidly evaluate a

devices electrical parameters without relying on lengthy
and equipment-heavy source/load-pull testing.
As GaN substrates and material properties advance
and become better understood, there will be a greater
need for more capable automated modeling and
characterization systems. The demand for automation
is being raised by the extremely wide-bandwidth, highfrequency, and large power ranges in which these GaN
devices can operate. These ranges will only increase
with time and development. Furthermore, GaN devices
are increasingly being used in higher-performing
applications that require the technology to meet newly
possible performance criteria. This trend is leading to the
exploration of newer, more efcient, and more accurate
techniques to characterize and model these devices. As
design cycles shrink, the designers reliance on simulation
tools also will drive the demand for device modeling and
automation advancements.

Figure 4: Load Pull Test

Load/source pull testing
methods reveal the complex
impedance response of the input
and output of a test device
under real operating conditions.

Network analyzer/
vector receiver

(Courtesy of Maury Microwave)

Signal source


Impedance tuner



Impedance tuner

Source: Courtesy of Maury Microwave













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The Ultimate Guide to GaN

Handling the Heat

From GaN Devices

by Jack Browne

Thermal management
of high-power
GaN devices and
components can
ensure expected
performance levels
and reliability over
long operating lifetimes.

eat can be disruptive and destructive, especially in the case

of gallium nitride (GaN) devices, which are capable of high
output-power levels but also of producing high levels of heat in
small areas. Proper thermal management is a key to achieving
suitable operating conditions for high-power GaN devices and
ensuring high reliability and long operating lifetimes. Effective GaN thermal
management is possible by understanding how these tiny devices can produce
so much heat and how to best move the heat away from the device and its
microscopic junctions.
Put simply, GaN-based transistors and integrated circuits (ICs) are capable
of generating and handling high power levels in spite of extremely small sizes
and device dimensions. They can operate at high voltages and high current
levels, compared to other semiconductor devices especially at RF and microwave
frequency ranges, such as those based on silicon (Si) or gallium arsenide (GaAs)
substrate materials, and achieve very high power densities. The high voltage and
high current capabilities of GaN devices account for their capabilities to generate
high power levels in active components, such as ampliers, and to handle high
power levels in passive components, such as switches.


Proper thermal management is a key to achieving suitable

operating conditions for high-power GaN devices and ensuring
high reliability and long operating lifetimes.

Figure 1: GaN Thermal Path

Thermal testing of GaN

devices at the die level
involves special fixtures
capable of channeling heat
from the device.
(Graphic courtesy of Cree Inc.)

Unfortunately, due to different resistances in the material of a GaN device,

these high power levels are not produced or channeled with 100% efciency.
As a result, some of the energy and power passing through a GaN device will
be transformed into heat, resulting in heating of the device channel in which
electrons ow from the device gate to its drain. This self-heating of GaN devices
can impact performance, including loss of output power and variations in gain
with temperature (typically lower gain at higher device temperatures). Effective
design for GaN devices and components involves nding ways to minimize
the heat being generated by the GaN devices and transferring what heat is
generated away from the transistor to minimize the effects of self-heating on the
transistors performance.

Temperature Control is Key

Whether for active or passive devices or components, controlling temperature
is an important part of achieving success with GaN technology, especially when
these devices or components are used at higher power levels. Although GaN
devices or components dissipate heat as a function of the thermal characteristics
of the GaN material, it is important to realize that the GaN material is only part of
the thermal makeup of a GaN active or passive device or component.
GaN circuits are fabricated on a second, substrate materialmost often
silicon carbide (SiC) for RF/microwave devices because of its excellent thermal
properties, and silicon (Si) for power electronics applications and for light-emitting
diodes (LEDs). SiC material is much better at owing heat away from the GaN
micro circuitry than a silicon substrate, but it is also much more expensive than
silicon material.
GaN material is produced by a number of different processes, including with
metal-organic chemical-vapor-deposition (MOCVD) reactors and with molecularbeam-epitaxy (MBE) systems. For RF/microwave applications, a number of
different transistor structures are used, including those well-known from other
semiconductor device materials, such as GaAs, including eld-effect transistors
(FETs) and high-electron mobility transistors (HEMTs).
For higher-power devices, such as transistors and MMICs for


The Ultimate Guide to GaN

Whether for active or passive devices or components, controlling

temperature is an important part of achieving success with GaN
technology, especially when these devices or components are
used at higher power levels.

communications and radar systems, heat buildup can

limit the effective operating lifetime of a GaN device or
component. Data sheets for GaN devices and components,
whether active or passive, provide data on the thermal
behavior of the device or component. This thermal-related
data can be used as starting points for the creation of a
thermal-management plan for a design. GaN data sheets
typically include plots of temperature versus power, usually
for both continuous-wave (CW) and pulsed signals.
When comparing devices and components for their
thermal durability under pulsed conditions, it is important
to remember that the amount of heat generated within a
GaN device or component will rise steadily with increases
in pulse width and pulse duty cycle. Many GaN device
and component data sheets provide information on the
mean time to failure and the projected median operating
lifetime as a function of channel temperature, and a
maximum channel temperature (often +200C or higher)
is included. For safe and reliable operation, the maximum
channel temperature should never be exceeded, or should
it even be approached, with safer maximum channel
temperatures usually about 10 degrees less. Exceeding
the maximum channel temperature can cause failure or, at
the least, dramatically shorten the operating lifetime of a
GaN device or component.
Thermal management of GaN devices and
components involves conducting as much of the heat
generated within the GaN active devices as possible to
a lower-temperature location of the design, such as a
heat sink, where the heat can be harmlessly dissipated.
The concept is simple but involves a number of different
materials, each with its own thermal characteristics, and

a number of interfaces between the different materials,

each of which can produce hot spots or potential problem
areas when trying to create a smooth thermal path.
This thermal path (Fig. 1) may include the GaN
semiconductor material, the SiC substrate material on
which the device or component is fabricated, package
material, PCB material and its ground layer, and a heat
sink or circuit- or system-level enclosure. The goal is to
create a thermal path without hotspots or wrong turns in
the path, so that heat will ow away from the GaN device
or component. Each of the materials in this thermal path,
starting with the GaN, can be characterized by a number of
different thermal parameters, including thermal resistance
and thermal conductivity.
Starting with the GaN device or component in this
thermal path, its materials (typically GaN on a SiC substrate)
can be characterized by a number of thermal parameters
that help to determine how much heat will be produced
for a given operating power level. One of these parameters
is thermal resistance, usually denoted on GaN device and
component data sheets as JC. It is typically given in degrees
centigrade per watt (C/W) and, for pulsed applications, is
typically referenced to a particular input signal pulse width
and duty cycle. It can be calculated as the product of the
temperature difference from the case to the device junction,
T, and PDISS, the power dissipated in the GaN device or
component. The simple relationship is JC = T/PDISS, and it
shows how rising levels of dissipated power relate to rising
temperatures in a GaN device. It also provides a starting
point on determining how much heat (T) must be removed
or transferred from the GaN device or component.
The thermal resistance for a GaN device (or


Practical GaN thermal management involves creating a

thermal path with low thermal resistance from the GaN device
or component to a location where the heat can be safely
dissipated, such as the ambient surroundings or a heat sink.

any semiconductor device) is a function of the thermal properties of the

semiconductor material, such as GaN and SiC, the die thickness, and the current
density in the device. Practical GaN thermal management involves creating a
thermal path with low thermal resistance from the GaN device or component
to a location where the heat can be safely dissipated, such as the ambient
surroundings or a heat sink.
Another important material parameter for GaN and the other materials in
the thermal path is thermal conductivity, often denoted by K on data sheets.
It is a measure of how well a material can transfer heat, with higher numbers
denoting better heat transfer. The thermal conductivity of GaN can vary a great
deal, depending upon the crystal quality of the material and the growth methods
and systems used to produce the material. It is also temperature-dependent,
and decreases with increasing temperature.
For example, at room temperature, the thermal conductivity of a GaN lm
can be as high as 225 W/mK, although a more realistic room-temperature value,
as noted by GaN device suppliers such as Cree, is 130 W/mK. This is much less
than the thermal conductivity of SiC, which is typically 430 W/mK or higher and
why it is used to aid the heat dispersal of GaN devices and components. The
thermal conductivity of GaN also decreases with increasing temperature so that
at higher power levels and temperatures, the effective thermal conductivity of
GaN can drop to 100 W/mK or less.

Other Material Factors

Another temperature-related material parameter to consider when forming a
thermal path to conduct heat away from a GaN device or component is the
coefcient of thermal expansion (CTE), which relates to the physical changes
in a materials volume as a function of temperature. Some materials, such as
copper, gold, and stainless steel, have very similar CTE values and responses
to changes in temperature. Some materials, such as diamond, have low CTE
values and almost no changes in volume with temperature. Ideally, the thermal
path from a GaN device or component can include materials that are fairly


The Ultimate Guide to GaN

A PCB may require some help when trying to channel heat

from a top-mounted GaN device or component through the
PCB to a bottom ground plane or other part of the thermal path.

closely matched in CTE values, to minimize stress caused

by temperature-related material expansion and contraction.
Often the thermal path for a GaN device or
component leads through a printed circuit board (PCB),
which is typically a dielectric material plated with metal
such as copper to form circuitry and, as in the case of
common RF/microwave microstrip circuits, a ground
plane. Because the dielectric material typically does not
have good thermal properties, a PCB may require some
help when trying to channel heat from a top-mounted GaN
device or component through the PCB to a bottom ground
plane or other part of the thermal path. Some thermal
channeling may be required in the form of viaholes or
plated through holes (PTHs) in the PCB, often formed in a
farm or pattern around the GaN device or component to
improve heat dispersal. The viaholes are typically plugged
with a thermally conductive metal such as copper to
enhance the ow of heat from the GaN source, through
the PCB, and to the ground plane.
The number of holes, the size of the holes, and their
placement relative to the GaN device can all contribute
to the effectiveness of the heat dispersal, and circuit
designers will often conduct some computer-aidedengineering (CAE) modeling to better understand the
effects of different hole sizes and placements in the
PCB. Such circuit modeling is usually performed with
electromagnetic (EM) simulation software based on niteelement analysis (FEA).
Many different commercial nite-element simulation
packages (some parts of system-level simulations) are
available for this purpose, allowing users to develop models

for the thermal behavior of the various materials in the

GaN thermal path, including the SiC material and any heat
spreaders in the path. Using such models, the thermal
path, including the interfaces between different materials,
can be simulated and analyzed under different operating
conditions to predict hot spots and potential problem areas.
Because voids are inevitable in a GaN thermal path,
especially at the interfaces between different materials in
the path, such as a GaN package and the PCB, additional
materials such as thermal gaskets or thermal grease are
often used to ll those voids and improve the thermal
conductivity and the ow of heat. Thermal gaskets are
formed of materials, such as graphene or graphite, with
extremely high thermal conductivity to improve heat ow
away from the GaN device or component. And the thermal
grease can deliver a reduction in the calculated thermal
resistance, often as much as 20% or more, and a reduction
in thermal junction temperature. These additional materials
can also be modeled as part of any nite-element analysis.

Measuring Heat
Effectively channeling heat away from a GaN device or
component requires not only a means to model the thermal
path but also some way to measure the effectiveness
of the heat dispersion once the path has been designed
and fabricated. Infrared microscopes have traditionally
been used to check the thermal characteristics of
semiconductors and circuits, although such measurement
tools can be limited when evaluating the micronsized hotspots possible in GaN-based circuitry. Still, IR
microscopes can reveal any areas of concern on the


Effectively channeling heat away from a GaN device or

component requires not only a means to model the thermal
path but also some way to measure the effectiveness of the heat
dispersion once the path has been designed and fabricated.

Figure 2: Plastic
Packages for GaN
GaN die Epoxy attach
Cu leadframe

Via hole


Advances in packaging have

led to lower-cost plastic
packages for GaN devices
and components capable of
handling higher power levels
without thermal problems.
(Graphic courtesy of MACOM)

surface of a GaN chip-level device and its SiC substrate or on the surface of a
GaN device or component package. Newer IR microscopes have been developed
with pixel sizes as small as 6.25 m for spatial resolution as ne as 10 m to
better isolate hotspots and thermal problems in GaN devices and component. IR
microscopes are also useful tools for characterizing the effects of temperature
cycling used to evaluate the robustness and reliability of the thermal path and
its interfaces, such as performing more than 800 cycles across the temperature
range from -40 to +125C to check for material changes.
For packaged GaN devices and components, the package is a signicant
portion of the thermal path. Traditionally, such packages have been expensive,
made of metal-ceramic and other thermally conductive materials, but providing
excellent heat dissipation. Newer packaged GaN products, as part of efforts to
reduce costs, have incorporated plastic packages capable of respectable heat
dissipation (Fig. 2). By optimizing the transistor die layout within the package,
combined with advanced heat-sinking and die-attachment techniques, these
plastic-packaged GaN devices approach the thermal capabilities of GaN devices
in metal-ceramic housings, but at a fraction of the cost. The plastic GaN
packages are also considerably lighter than their metal-ceramic counterparts,
which can make a difference in some mobile electronic designs and systems
with large numbers of GaN devices, such as large radars.
Ultimately, because GaN offers such outstanding electrical properties
at high frequencies compared to older semiconductor technologies, such as
Si and GaAs, the challenge to achieve effective thermal management will
encourage the development of lower-cost device and component packages
that can still dissipate large amounts of heat at high power levels. GaN devices
and components will be used in ever-increasing numbers and with improving
techniques for thermal management to ensure longer operating lifetimes.


The Ultimate Guide to GaN


Boost Efficiency and

Decrease Power Dissipation
of GaN Power Amplifiers

by Jean-Jacques DeLisle

With the latest and

forthcoming GaN
amplifiers capable of
handling an extreme
amount of power over
very broad frequencies,
designers are
increasingly adopting
this technology.

s more companies and industries are embracing gallium-nitride

(GaN) technology for use in wide-bandwidth and high-power
applications, the cost of using GaN circuitry is decreasing.
As a result, GaN technology is becoming more accessible. In
the RF/microwave industries, this has led to the exploration
of substrate, circuit, and thermal-management techniques. Meanwhile, more
efcient GaN power-amplier (PA) operation is boosting portable-electronic,
electronic-warfare/military, and wireless-infrastructure applications.
Because GaN technology is very exible and robust, signicant discussions
have focused on how a designer can cleverly manipulate the greatest efciency
and power dissipation from this highly promising semiconductor. (Fig. 1). For
example, GaN devices/ampliers are routinely operating at 50 V with efforts
pushing this to 65 V, noted Timothy Boles, technology fellow and director of
strategy at MACOM. This contrasts with silicon transistors that are typically
biased at 30 V and GaAs power ampliers in the 10-to-12-V range. Since P
= IV, for a xed output power, doubling the supply voltage will mean that the
amplier can be designed with a device that only requires half to one-fth of the
current as compared to other active device material systems.


The Ultimate Guide to GaN

More efficient GaN power-amplifier (PA) operation is

boosting portable-electronic, electronic-warfare/military, and
wireless-infrastructure applications.

Figure 1: Power vs. Frequency

for Transistor Technologies



GaN Meets Modern Modulation

Modulation methods, such as 4G and LTE/LTE-A, can
dramatically improve the data rates of communications
equipment. Yet, there is a signicant tradeoff between
the data rate and power consumption of portable
communications electronics. According to Boles, The
unique challenges in this application space result from
the increased linearity requirements placed on the power
amplier by the varied and evolving modulation schemes.
Being able to address multiple modulation standards in the



Power (Watts)

This, in turn, translates into a 4x to 25x reduction

in intrinsic I2R losses, greatly improving the overall
amplier efciency, Boles continued. In addition, since
the matching transformation structures needed to bring
the power amplier to the required 50 ohms at the
device terminals are not lossless, this 2x to 5x reduction
in current will result in a 4x to 25x improvement in the
high-frequency losses in the transformation/combining
networks, further improving the overall amplier efciency.
The major factors related to the efciency of a power
amplier include typology, thermal management, input
bias, and bandwidth. When considering increasing the
efciency, several parameters require a tradeoffnamely
linearity, modulation accuracy, gain, spectral regrowth,
size, and cost. To drive the best performance from a PA, it
helps to know the dynamics of the design considerations
as well as the tradeoffs. With many military organizations
switching to commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) components,
these concerns also impact military organizations. They
are looking to GaN PAs and other technologies to increase
their tactical networking capability on the battleeld.






Frequency (GHz)

The power handling of GaN HEMT

technology exceeds that of other current
semiconductor technologies and is only
inferior to GaAs HEMT technology in
frequency capability.
(Courtesy of Keysight Technologies)



With GaN technology, the power-output capability of a PA

is enhanced by many times that of a traditional galliumarsenide (GaAs) or laterally diffused MOS (LDMOS) solution.

widest bandwidthwhile utilizing a minimum number of ampliers all running

at high efciencyhas been and continues to be an issue.
Advanced technologies like 4G and LTE use modulation formats with
higher peak-to-average-power ratios (PAPRs) than traditional formats
SC-FDMA compared to W-CDMA. Because the PA is the highest-powerconsuming block in the circuitry, the PA designer must account for the highest
possible efciency.
With GaN technology, the power-output capability of a PA is enhanced by
many times that of a traditional gallium-arsenide (GaAs) or laterally diffused
MOS (LDMOS) solution. This enhancement in power capability is in large part
enabled by GaN wide-bandgap semiconductor properties, which allow for
a much higher supply voltage. The increase in supply voltage reduces the
amount of current required by the PA to achieve equivalent power output.
This factor assists in power output capability. But, a higher supply voltage
means that more energy is being used to bias the PA circuitry, even when the
signal waveform does not require the full voltage-supply range. Ideally, a PA
would be operating in the compression region as often as possible. This is a
challenge, as the instantaneous signal may not require the voltage headroom
at this voltage supply level.

Figure 2: Constant PA
Supply and Envelope
Tracking PA Supply
Constant PA supply voltage

Unused energy

PA input signal


Envelope tracking voltage

PA Trackers
To reduce the power consumption of these GaN-enhanced PA circuits,
envelope tracking (ET) can be used. This technique adjusts the supply
voltage of a PA commensurate with the instantaneous power demand of the
implemented modulation technique (Fig. 2). In doing so, it can mitigate a
high supply voltages additional power loss. An added benet of ET is that it
reduces the total thermal energy accumulation over time.
Envelope tracking works by modulating a specialized power supply,
dubbed the ET power supply (ETPS). Here, a sampling from the I/Q datas
absolute magnitude is used as a reference to a shaping table. That shaping


Envelope Tracking enables a

much more efficient amplifier
typology, as the energy that
is unused during low power
cycles of a modulation
scheme is recovered.
(Courtesy of Keysight Technologies)


The Ultimate Guide to GaN

Figure 3: Envelope Tracking Block Diagram




V in

Envelope Tracking requires

a sampling of the baseband
IQ data that is fast enough
to describe the modulated
waveform accurately and
in sync in order to garner
the efficiency benefits of
the technique.

Envelope tracking
power supply

V cc



RF in

(Courtesy of Keysight Technologies)


RF out

ET front-end


table contains the appropriate power map for the PA

at various power levels, depending upon efficiency,
linearity, and the need to avoid null voltage conditions.
A sampling rate of the baseband I/Q data must be
sufficient to accurately capture the magnitude without
error. A three-to-six-time oversampling is often used,
which requires a much faster sampler. Ultimately, this
approach enables a more refined shaping table. It also
could increase the ease of timing alignment between
the ETPS and the RF PAs output.
The MIPI Alliance has dened an Analog Reference
Interface for Envelope Tracking (eTrak) to support the
deployment of ET techniques. In the later releases of
the 3GPP cellular standards, this interface is dened as
a leading method for increasing power efciency. The
eTrak standard denes an ETPS as having differential
inputs. Thus, an ET system requires a differential
envelope waveform generator to have a differential
output. The timing alignment of the ET waveform and

the PAs output is critical, as misalignments could lead

to distortion, power-efciency losses, and inadequate
transmit power. For a 100-resource-block (RB) LTE
signal, the commonly accepted minimum timing
alignment is 1 ns. Considering the increased bandwidth
of carrier aggregation and the multiple frequency
channels of MIMO LTE systems, however, a much more
conservative timing control is required.
Timing alignment is often performed in multiple
stages. First, alignment is done with a test instrument,
such as an oscilloscope, which roughly aligns the PA
and the I/Q envelope (Fig. 3). Final adjustments require
tuning under real-life conditions over the range use.
Often, such adjustments are performed by deriving
adjustment parameters from the error vector magnitude
(EVM) and adjacent-channel leakage ratio (ACLR). In
addition, many other ET approaches and even amplier
classes lend themselves to achieving increased output
power and peak drain efciency.


Figure 4: Digital Predistortion Response Curves

Response (PA output)

Pre-distortion curve

Ideal (linear response)

Applying digital predistortion requires an

iterative adjustment to a
lookup-table that adjusts
the digital modulation
corresponding to nonlinear
output response of the PA.

(Courtesy of Keysight Technologies)

PAs Get Distorted

The PAPR of an LTE uplink signal can be as high as 7
dB. As a result, an increase of 2 to 3 dB over W-CDMA/
HSPAoperating linearly at these power levels
poses a challenge for the PA designed for advanced
modulation methods used by portable communications
electronics. The size, weight, power, and cost (SWAP-C)
all track as a function of increasing the linearity of a
PA. This is especially true over the range of frequencies
and considering the bandwidth capability of GaN PAs.
Increasing the linearityor decreasing the nonlinearity/
distortionis desirable, as high levels of distortion
can cause decreased data rates and decreased power
efciency. They also may increase the operating
temperature while inviting interference.
To reduce the nonlinear operation of a PA without
adding SWAP-C, the distortion characteristics of a PA can
be mapped. The inverse of that distortion characteristic can
then be preloaded via digital modulation to the input of the
PA. Digital predistortion (DPD) enables the correction of a
distorted PA output response to an ideal linear response over
the desired frequency range and bandwidth for the given
modulation technique (Fig. 4). To create a cost- and design-


effective solution for DPD, a lookup table (LUT) is developed

for a PA based upon the ampliers amplitude-modulation
(AM) and phase-modulation (PM) response.
The AM-input-to-AM-output (AM-AM) and AMinput-to-PM-output (AM-PM) curves are used along
with a linear AM-AM curve and at AM-PM line. Using
them, it is possible to derive the characteristic needed
to linearize the AM-AM response and atten the AM-PM
response. Curve-tting techniques are used to calculate
the correction characteristics polynomial coefcients.
These techniques are prone to some level of error. The
inverse of the characteristic can be loaded into an LUT and
used to pre-distort the modulated signal at the input of the
PA. It should be noted that the error from the curve-tting
calculations may still lead to a partially distorted response.
As a result, an iterative approach of rening the LUT, called
DPD closed-loop iteration, can be used to progressively
rene the DPD method.
Applying DPD is done by manipulating the phase
and amplitude at the input of the PA based upon the
I/Q samples magnitude (similar to the initial step in ET).
To limit potential interference, the bandwidth of capture
needed to apply DPD must be the sum of the channel

The Ultimate Guide to GaN

To reduce the nonlinear operation of a PA without adding

SWAP-C, the distortion characteristics of a PA can be mapped.

the instantaneous power requirement of the transmitted

signal. A typology that has experienced increased adoption
is the Asymmetric Doherty PA or Doherty PA. The Doherty
typology is used to induce a loading effect on the output
of a PA (generally a Class-B main amplier and Class-C
peaking amplier). That load is then adjusted to an
optimized efciency curve based upon the RF signal level.
The dynamic loading effect of a Doherty PA is
induced by a secondary amplier, known as the peaking
amplier. This amplier generates an additional virtual
load at the output of the main amplier. The behavior of
the peaking amplier is controlled by the instantaneous
power requirement of the amplier system. Often, the input
signal is delivered through a 90-degree hybrid coupler for
power splitting to each amplier. The peaking amplier
is connected to the power splitter with a quarter-wave
transmission line. It has an unobstructed connection to
the output load. The main amplier, in contrast, is directly
connected to the power splitter and linked to the output
load through a quarter-wave transmission line.
This conguration ensures that the signals from
each amplier will be delivered in-phase to the load. For
low-power signal conditions, only the main amplier will
operate ideally. Under large-power signal conditions, the
peaking amplier will turn on and increase the effective
load at the output. The increased parallel loading at the
output of the main amplier reduces the effective load as
seen by the main amplier. As a result, the main amplier
can produce greater current and power. This approach
limits the increase in voltage output for the main amplier.
It also limits clipping or increased distortion at higher
voltage levels (Fig. 5).

bandwidth and its adjacent channels. For 20-MHz LTE

signals, 60 MHz of bandwidth is needed for the initial
channel. An additional 40 MHz of bandwidth is required
for the alternate channel. Increased data-rate methods,
such as carrier aggregation, would increase the required
bandwidth by an additional 20 MHz per channel. A widebandwidth signal analyzer would be needed to capture
the full bandwidth necessary to accurately dene the DPD
characteristic for the LUT.

Why Not Both?

When applying both ET and DPD techniques, a control
method needs to be established. Otherwise, conicting
responses could be developed that lead to non-optimized
timing synchronization and increased nonlinearity.
Generally, the ET envelope is generated from the predistorted I/Q waveforms. Both pre-distorted envelope and
I/Q waveforms must be re-generated as a function of
the updated LUT for each iteration of the DPD closedloop iteration optimization. To analyze the effects of the
different techniques on PA efciency, the ET is applied
and optimized prior to the DPD. This also enables the
DPD closed-loop iteration to compensate effectively for
the amplitude and phase nonlinearity introduced by the
ET method.

Doherty This, Doherty That

Although these methods can be used to enhance a
PAs efciency, the architecture of a PA will still act as a
limiting factor when it comes to efciency. For this reason,
designers have sought PA circuit designs that could
enable greater efciency while being dependent upon


Figure 5: Doherty Configuration Output Power vs. Efficiency Curves

The Doherty configuration exhibits an efficiency over power curve as a function of
the ratio of sizing of the peaking to main amplifier. (Courtesy of Freescale Semiconductor)

Average efficiency (%)


Efficiency (%)










Output power relative to maximum (dB)


Output power relative to maximum (dB)

CuMo/CuW) packaging materials are certainly desired.

In addition, the specic conguration/layout needs to
be designed to minimize parasitic reactance, which
will degrade the efcient transport of power from the
active device to the load. Lastly, the packaging needs to
provide the required level of environmental protection for
the specic power-amplier applicationranging from
HAST-qualied plastic encapsulation to fully hermetic
solder-sealed air cavitieswithout degrading the RF
performance or PAE.
Both the latest and future GaN ampliers are capable
of handling an extreme amount of power over very
broad frequencies. As a result, designers must meet the
challenge of optimizing the output parameters of such a
versatile device while maintaining a manageable power
requirement. GaN technology is also forcing a choice of
using new amplier typologies that are better suited for
various applications and industries. Detailed knowledge
of amplier behavior over frequency and modulation is
required to develop techniques that optimize efciency and
linearity of an amplier design.

Matching is required at the input of both the main and

peaking ampliers. The output matching should be designed
using sophisticated load-pull techniques or highly rened
models. For Doherty design cases, in which the peak amplier
is larger than the main amplier, additional signal power
should be delivered to the peak amplier. This approach
improves efciency. Commercially available modules, which
drive Doherty PAs, enable control of the amplitude and
phase of each amplier in the conguration. The asymmetric
Doherty conguration can generally achieve an increased
average efciency of greater than 50%. In contrast, an ideal
Class-B amplierwith an average efciency of 27% and
a symmetric Doherty congurationoften exhibits 5% less
efciency than an asymmetric Doherty.

Materials and Packaging Matter

Amidst this multitude of considerations, designers must
keep packaging in mind. The packaging and materials
involved are critical to the design of an efcient power
amplier, said Boles. Low-electrical-loss (copper, silver,
gold), high-thermal-conductivity (copper, silver, AlN,







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for a single-ended power transistor optimized for pulsed L-Band radar
applications. The MAGX-001214-650L00 guarantees 650 W of peak power
with a typical 19.5 dB of gain and 60% efciency.

1.2-1.4MHz and 300us, 10% pulsing

600W min peak output power
17.5dB typical power gain
66% drain efciency
Single Ended 50V
0.5 x 0.4 (12.7 mm x 9.8mm) footprint (earless package conguration)

The device also boasts very high breakdown voltages which allow customers
reliable and stable operation at 50 V under more extreme load mismatch
conditions. The device is assembled in a high-performance ceramic
ange package and has undergone MACOMs rigorous qualication and
reliability testing, which offers customers state-of-the-art power with rugged
performance that is ideally suited to todays demanding radar applications.

The 1214GN-600VHE is ideal for use in primary radar transmitter power

ampliers for Air Trafc Control as well as other L-band surveillance and
imaging applications.

L-Band 90W 2-Stage Fully Matched
GaN Surface Mount Laminate

The new Microsemi 1011GN-1200V is designed for the most demanding
1030/1090MHz avionics and ground-based secondary radar systems
transmitters. With unparalleled 1200W peak output power, 18dB gain,
and 75% drain efciency this versatile single-ended 50V L-band GaN on
SiC HEMT transistor device is the ideal choice. Whether transponder,
interrogator, TCAS, and/or IFF pulsing formats, the 1011GN-1200V
delivers optimum size, weight, power, and efciency. A four-in-parallel
output stage enables >4KW with margin, making the device the perfect
choice for engineers designing next-generation IFF as well as other multikilowatt power ampliers.

The MAMG-001214-090PSM is optimized

for L-Band commercial air trafc control,
military radar, and long-range perimeter monitoring applications at 1.2 to
1.4 GHz. MACOMs new 2-stage, fully matched GaN in Plastic power module
scales to peak pulse power levels of 100W in a 14 x 24 mm package size
delivering twice the power of comparably sized competing products.
MACOMs new high gain GaN in Plastic power modules are the rst and only
GaN-based modules to support surface mount technology (SMT) assembly,
providing signicant cost and process advantages compared to ceramicpackaged ange-mount components. Delivering clear benets in size, weight
and power (SWaP) while enabling high-volume manufacturing efciency,
this device extends the performance attributes of MACOMs discrete GaN in
Plastic power transistors.

Freescale MMRF5014H
The industrys most advanced RF power technologies and broadest RF portfolionow enabled for superior performance in military and
defense applications. The MMRF5014H is a 125 watt CW GaN on SiC RF transistor designed for wideband ampliers in applications such as
radar, jammers, electronic warfare and military radios. With >12dB wideband gain and extreme ruggedness, the wideband performance of this
device makes it ideal for large-signal, common-source amplier applications for linear and compressed amplier circuits operating up to 2690
MHz. To accommodate the defense industrys SWaP needs while not compromising performance, the MMRF5014H is designed on a compact
circuit, and is offered on Freescales Product Longevity Program. Go to to learn more.


The Ultimate Guide to GaN


TriQuints TGA2578-CP is a world-class, broadband
MMIC HPA using our GaN on SiC production
technology. Operating from 2-6GHz and delivering
30W of saturated power under CW operation, the
TGA2578-CP is ideal for EW, S and C-band radar,
as well as, various instrumentation needs. High power gain of 22dB helps
reduce the need for additional gain stages; whereas, PAE of >30% eases
demand on system power and supports good thermal management.
The TGA2578-CP is offered in a TriQuint-developed, pure copper base
package that can be bolted down or soldered for superior thermal transfer to
the system heat sink. Further simplifying system integration, the TGA2578CP is also fully matched to 501 with DC blocks on both RF ports. For further
electrical and export information, please click here.

TriQuints TGF3015-SM is a world-class, broadband
501 input matched transistor using our GaN on SiC
production technology. Operating from 30MHz-3GHz
and delivering 10W of saturated power under CW
operation, the TGF3015-SM is ideal for milcom, EW,
S-band radar, as well as, various instrumentation needs. The integrated input
matching network enables wideband gain and power performance, while the
output can be matched on board to optimize power and efciency for any
region within the band.
The TGF3015-SM is offered in an industry-standard 3x3 plastic QFN
package that saves real estate of already space-constrained handheld radios
and radar systems. Wideband evaluation boards are available upon request.
For further electrical and export information, please click here.

To learn more about GaN, visit:
GaN Page
GaN Manifesto
GaN Videos

Download Manifesto

Watch Video from IMS

Video from IMS
Learn more about Freescales RF Power Solutions for Defense
Learn more about Product Longevity

TriQuint GaN Brochure
TriQuint GaN Thermal Analysis for
High-Performance Systems FAQ


TriQuint RF Applications of GaN

For Dummies eBook

GaN and SIC RF Power Transistor Selection Guide

(select RF & Microwave)
GaNFET Application Note

TriQuint GaN RF Technology

For Dummies eBook

Download eBook

GaN Technology



Company Profile

RF & Microwave Transistor Solutions

Microsemi Discrete Products Group
Among many diverse Microsemi semiconductor product
lines, the Microsemi Discrete Products Group (DPG) was
formed in 2014 to better serve the discrete semiconductor
market. The Santa Clara based RF and Microwave Transistor
Solutions (RFMW TS) business unit was included in DPG to
best cohesively serve the RF and microwave discrete power
transistor market.
The RFMW transistor solutions business unit specializes in
supporting customers in the aerospace, communications,
defense, and industrial markets with full line-ups of products
meeting the demanding requirements of transmitter amplifier
systems. With a heritage spanning more than 35 years that
includes traditional legacy CW and pulsed high-power silicon
bipolar junction transistor (BJT) devices and products,
Microsemi now brings to the market highest performance
wide band gap GaN on SiC HEMT transistor technology
devices and products.
Whether a system for a commercial or military application,
for an airborne, ground, marine, or space-based platform,
or for a primary surveillance or imaging radar, secondary
communications radar, communications, or industrial
system, Microsemi has market-leading transistor solutions.
As most RF and microwave power amplifier transmitter
systems are designed for a product life cycle of 15 to well
beyond 25 years, high reliability Microsemi power transistor
product offerings support applications throughout the full
life cycle and, thereby, have cultivated many long-standing
relationships with major system manufacturers worldwide.
Fully hermetic packaged Microsemi transistor devices
offer the longest lifetime due to the use of advanced gold
metallization and novel die designs, which achieve lowest
thermal resistances. Hi-Rel screening is offered to selected
levels: JAN, JAN-TX, JAN-TXV, JAN-S.

Whether a die, a packaged transistor, a 50 input and

output plug-and-play transistor pallet, or a more integrated
amplifier assembly, the Microsemi goal is to provide highest
performance products that meet all specified requirements
over the life of the program. This ensures that our customers
will always achieve the optimum system performance and
lowest total cost of ownership, making Microsemi the best
choice for the next transmitter power amplifier design.

Microsemi High Power 50V GaN Pulsed Models for Avionics & Radar




Model Number







Mode-S ELM
Long Range Radar
High Efciency LLR
Heavy Pulsing Radar
Primary Radar
Primary Radar
Primary Radar


960-1215 MHz
1030/1090 MHz
1030/1090 MHz
1.2-1.4 GHz
1.2-1.4 GHz
1.2-1.4 GHz
2.7-3.1 GHz
3.1-3.5 GHz
5.3-5.9 GHz

128 us
32 us
300 us
300 us
1.5 ms
200 us
200 us
100 us

10 %
10 %
10 %
10 %
10 %
10 %

650 W
750 W
1200 W
550 W
600 W
500 W
400 W
380 W
120 W

17 dB
19 dB
18 dB
17 dB
17 dB
16 dB
14 dB
14 dB
11 dB

60 %
70 %
75 %
65 %
60 %
55 %
40 %