BAE to work with Air Force on microelectronics technology

Gallium nitride semiconductors will be scaled at Nashua plant for radar, electronic warfare and communications systems


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BAE Systems has signed a cooperative agreement with the Air Force Research Laboratory to advance the development of microelectronics technology, initially developed by the U.S. Air Force, at BAEs Advanced Microwave Products Center in Nashua.

As part of Phase 1, BAE will enhance gallium nitride semiconductor technology, scaling it to 6-inch wafers that will cut per-chip costs and improve the accessibility of the technology that will be used in next-generation radar, electronic warfare and communications systems.

According to ScienceX, a science, research and technology news service based in the U.K., gallium nitride is a semiconductor compound commonly used in light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that can also be used in the production of semiconductor power devices as well as RF components. The material has the ability to conduct electrons more than 1,000 times more efficiently than silicon. 

A press release from BAE indicates gallium nitride (GaN) technology provides broad frequency bandwidth, high efficiency and high transmit power in a small footprint. Under the agreement, BAE will work with the Air Force Research Laboratory to establish a 140-nanometer GaN monolithic microwave integrated circuit process that will be ready for production by 2020, with products available to Department of Defense suppliers through an open foundry service. 

“Millimeter-wave GaN technologies today are produced in research and development laboratories in low volumes at high associated costs or in captive foundries that are not broadly accessible to defense suppliers,” said Scott Sweetland, Advanced Microwave Products director at BAE Systems, in a press release. “This effort will leverage [the Air Force Research Laboratory]’s high-performance technology and BAE Systems’ 6-inch manufacturing capability to advance the state of the art in GaN [monolithic microwave] performance, reliability, and affordability while providing broader access to this critical technology.” 

The work on this project will primarily take place at BAE’s 70,000-square-foot Microelectronics Center in Nashua, where the company researches, develops and produces compound semiconductor materials, devices, circuits and modules for a wide range of microwave and millimeter-wave applications. The center fabricates integrated circuits in production quantities for critical Department of Defense programs.

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