Researchers at HRL Laboratories are developing a W-Band, nitrogen-polar (N-polar) GaN low noise amplifier, aiming to launch a new generation of semiconductor technology for defense electronics applications. Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), HRL’s task is to design, fabricate and test an N-polar GaN mmWave integrated circuit that will enable the first W-band amplifier using the advanced semiconductor material.

If successful developing the device, HRL believes it will provide 4x more output power at W-Band compared to HRL’s existing technology — providing a disruptive improvement in radar, electronic warfare and communications capabilities.

“ONR wants to see how good an integrated circuit we can make,” said Dan Denninghoff, HRL’s principal investigator. “Previous demonstrations have been on small devices — no one has demonstrated MMICs made with N-polar GaN material.”

HRL’s goal is to improve receiver amplifiers, potentially giving radar and other defense platforms better performance than current systems. For example, aircraft could have enhanced communications, and ships could have “game-changing potential benefits,” which interested the Navy, according to HRL.

“We are the only foundry that can make GaN devices this fast, with vertically integrated material design and nanometer-scale device fabrication. We have the capability to go all the way from gases to circuits, and not just any circuits, but the highest performing integrated circuits in the world. We hope to set another record with this amplifier,” said Denninghoff.