November 3, 2022

    Qorvo has again been invited to help lead the way to the future.

    Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Qorvo funding to develop a 90nm GaN (gallium nitride) node as part of a project called STARRY NITE (Advanced Integration Interconnection and Fabrication Growth for Domestic State of the Art (SOTA) Radio Frequency Gallium Nitride). The goal of STARRY NITE is to develop and mature domestic, open state-of-the-art RF GaN foundries in alignment with the DoD’s advanced packaging ecosystem. STARRY NITE represents the DoD’s commitment to continue the development of cutting-edge GaN technology and take advantage of its higher intrinsic capability for speed and voltage than silicon and GaAs (gallium arsenide) offer.

    Qorvo has long been a leader in the semiconductor industry and is recognized worldwide as a leader in innovation. Thanks in part to that legacy, the DoD is again turning to Qorvo to be part of a new wave of products that will help make modern life safer, more efficient and more productive. Qorvo released the first 150nm GaN node in 2015 — an industry first — and became an industry leader in the 20 – 40 GHz range for the past seven years. As a result, Qorvo is well-positioned to realize STARRY NITE's vision and ensure accessibility of 90nm RF GaN and GaN with advanced interconnects across the Defense Industrial Base (DIB), delivering manufacturing maturity with performance and advanced integration.

    Thanks to the STARRY NITE award, Qorvo will be able to support applications above Ka-band – and in some cases, improve performance for those applications at and below Ka-band with the high-speed node. The 90nm GaN node development that STARRY NITE is funding at Qorvo has applications for defense – radar, communications and electronic warfare thru W-band – essentially up to 100 GHz - many of which are not addressed well with existing GaN nodes. The same is true for commercial applications in a similar frequency range.

    Beyond Defense
    STARRY NITE may be funded through the defense community, but it’s really a dual-use concept that was selected based on its support of both defense and commercial applications. Qorvo is a leader in providing 5G and other commercial products that demand a keen understanding of today's market requirements, as well as the advanced GaN nodes and advanced interconnects needed to support those requirements. As a commercial provider for dual-use applications, Qorvo is uniquely positioned to leverage wafer volumes to drive manufacturing process control, accelerate process and reliability maturation and drive down costs for the entire DIB.

    Qorvo’s GaN technology

    GaN in the satcom marketplace

    Future Commercial Flexibility
    A 90nm GaN node transistor supports higher speeds, increased RF range, increased temperature robustness, high power level robustness, smaller size, and more efficient power consumption than silicon (Si) or gallium arsenide (GaAs). GaN also works at higher voltage levels than GaAs and Si. This means it can achieve power levels well above a GaAs or Si transistor. The higher power level provided by GaN technology allows more power per channel, enabling antenna arrays to produce the required radiated output power with fewer active elements – making the array size smaller and saving costs in other aspects of the system.

    Driving GaN Competition
    The STARRY NITE program will help Qorvo mature and release a 90nm GaN node – which has been demonstrated in R&D for many years. In commercial applications, the industry has seen the expansion of bandwidth demand for decades – more data at a higher rate. As bandwidth increases, so does the demand for higher frequencies. GaN allows designers to meet those growing demands.

    From an emerging market standpoint, 5G and soon-to-come 6G are expected to continue to advance developments in GaN applications and innovation – due in part to their high power and high-frequency requirements. Much of the communications we are familiar with today are built upon the backbone of technologies like GaN. GaN products provide the wireless and wired communications needed to help us achieve the satellite, cable, radar and cellular backbone to meet our high data rate needs. It also provides the needed infrastructure required to run the IoT, soon-to-be autonomous vehicles and space applications.

    In a larger sense, one key benefit for both the U.S. defense and commercial industrial base is that funding 90nm GaN through the STARRY NITE program helps extend leadership in GaN and millimeter wave performance capabilities. A look back at GaN investment over the years demonstrates that the U.S. developed GaN technology initially and maintained that leadership position for decades.


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    Elias Reese

    About the Author

    Elias Reese
    Technical Director – High Performance Analog Business Unit

    Eli has focused on the development of high-performance circuit and device technology for RF/microwave/mmWave applications for 40 years. Today he serves both external and internal customers through coordination of III-V device process R&D and advanced product development.