The U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) has exercised a three-year $15.9 million option on an existing $2.6 million base contract with Transphorm, intended to establish the company as a dedicated U.S. production source of GaN epiwafers for RF/mmWave and power electronics used in DoD and commercial applications.

The ONR award comprises a base program for technology development and transfer and an option to establish production scale. The objective is to commercialize nitrogen polar (N-polar) GaN, what Transphorm calls a “breakthrough technology” beyond the incumbent Ga-polar GaN. According to Transphorm, N-polar GaN holds “significant promise” for the advancement of GaN-based electronics for RF and power conversion systems.

“The N-polar orientation of the material is reversed from the traditional Ga-polar GaN currently being widely used in base station and DoD applications. The flip produces radical benefits in output power along with groundbreaking efficiencies to frequencies as high as 94 GHz. Applications span the frequency range of interest for 5G, 6G and beyond and also fill a critical technological void for DoD systems.” — Umesh Mishra, co-founder, CTO and chairman of Transphorm

At 94 GHz, mmWave devices have demonstrated record power densities and high efficiencies. This improved capability will reduce the need for power combining multiple devices and simplify cooling systems, yielding better performance and reduced cost.

N-polar GaN was developed at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) by Umesh Mishra, distinguished professor at UCSB and Transphorm’s co-founder, CTO and chairman. The technology, funded by ONR and DARPA, has been licensed exclusively to Transphorm.

Transphorm supplies high quality, high reliability high voltage GaN FETs and is currently in production with several customers. The company’s business model is vertically integrated, combining expertise, IP and an MOCVD epi growth platform with production scale.

Through the ONR program, Transphorm will establish epi capability on multiple platforms, including SiC, Si and sapphire substrates from 4 to 6 in. — ultimately 8 in. For RF and mmWave applications, Transphorm will be a “pure play” epiwafer supplier of GaN materials, offering

  • Rapid development.
  • Uniform, high yielding wafer products.
  • Production scale.
  • Statistical process control manufacturing.
“We are excited to partner with the ONR and DoD to commercialize our high performance GaN HEMT IP and epitaxy capability, specifically via the breakthrough N-polar and Ga-polar materials on various substrates including Silicon Carbide, Sapphire, and Silicon. This enables Transphorm to grow an adjacent vertical, that of epiwafer sales for DoD customers and fast-growing RF 5G markets. We are already seeing demand and are excited to go from purchase to production in less than 36 months, a key program goal.” — Primit Parikh, co-founder and COO of Transphorm

The ONR contract, N68335-19-C-0107, is administered by Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, New Jersey.