Join journalist Tommy Cummings for a weekly look at all things interesting, new, and noteworthy for design engineers.
It seems like we’re always being asked to do more with less. This also goes for electrical power. With electrical power, it’s a demand-versus-need situation. We have an ever-increasing demand for electricity as a power source while environmental issues require the need to do more with less energy. This demand-versus-need approach has design engineers crafting innovations and products that promise to deliver, convert, and utilize electrical power more efficiently.
In the case of advanced radar systems, this includes the development of gallium nitride (GaN) in power amplifiers. GaN is a semiconductor material with high breakdown voltage and high electron mobility. It provides several advantages in electronic power supplies that convert electricity between alternating and direct current, change voltage levels, and ensure the availability of reliable electric power. By using GaN devices in a radio frequency (RF) amplifier, high-output power can be gained without increasing size and weight. This level of high-output power in a compact space requires a solution with high power density and wide bandwidth, which is an ideal use case for GaN technology.
In this week’s New Tech Tuesdays, we’ll examine GaN power amplifiers from Analog Devices Inc. and Qorvo and a high-electron-mobility transistor from Wolfspeed/Cree.
Radar systems are shifting away from dish antennas and toward active electronically steered arrays (AESA), resulting in a growing need for high-power signal amplification distributed across the array. Mechanically steered dish radars can use a single high-power amplifier to drive the antenna while AESA systems require multiple, small-form power amplifiers. Analog Devices, Qorvo, and Wolfspeed/Cree offer GaN Power Amplifiers to meet the evolving requirements of these new radar systems.
The Analog Devices Inc. ADPA1107 GaN Broadband Power Amplifier is targeted for use in weather, marine, and military radar systems. The ADPA1107 amplifier also can be used in public mobile radio and general-purpose applications. The device delivers 45.0dBm (35W) with 56.5 percent typical power-added efficiency (PAE) across a bandwidth of 4.8GHz to 6.0GHz. It provides ±0.5dB gain flatness from 5.4GHz to 6.0GHz. It’s also small: 40-lead, 6mm x 6mm lead-frame chip-scale package (LFCSP).
The Qorvo QPA2966 20W GaN Wideband Power Amplifier is ideal for use in wideband communication systems, electronic warfare, test instrumentation, and radar applications. The QPA2966 operates from 2GHz to 18GHz, and delivers 43dBm of saturated output power. The amplifier is fabricated using Qorvo’s industry-unique 0.15um GaN on silicon carbide (SiC) process—QGaN15.
The Wolfspeed/Cree CMPA0530002S GaN HEMT is a GaN high-electron-mobility transistor with a wide range of applications, such as civil and military communications, broadband amplifiers, electronic warfare, industrial scientific and medical applications, and radar. The CMPA0530002S is designed for high-efficiency, high-gain, and wide-bandwidth capabilities. It's encased in a 3mm x 4mm surface mount, dual-flat-no-lead (DFN) package.
Radar system design is shifting from traditional dish antennas to AESAs, resulting in a need for signal-specific high-power amplification. GaN technology, with its high power output and wide bandwidth, is well suited for this application. Engineers can now incorporate GaN power amplifiers—offered by Analog Devices, Qorvo, and Wolfspeed/Cree—in their radar system design as an efficient way to meet the broad range of power requirements.
Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He's had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He's also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.
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