NRL Research Team Recognized for Achievements in Microwave Transistor Technology

6/28/2004 - 25-04r
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (202) 767-2541

A team of scientists from the Naval Research Laboratory's Electronics Science and Technology Division has received an NRL Group Achievement Award for their accomplishments in antimonide-based High Electron Mobility Transistor (HEMT) technology.

The NRL research team was cited for having "successfully led the development of high-electron-mobility-transistor technology employing antimonide-based semiconductor materials for low-power electronics, including material growth, device design and processing and transition to a manufacturing environment."

The NRL team includes Mr. Brad Boos, Mr. Doewon Park, Dr. Nicolas Papanicolaou, Dr. Robert Bass, Dr. Walter Kruppa, and Dr. Denis Webb from the Microwave Technology Branch, and Dr. Brian Bennett, Dr. Richard Magno, Dr. Mario Ancona, Dr. Ming J. Yang and Dr. Benjamin Shanabrook from the Electronic Materials Branch.

The military has a need to reduce the power consumed by microwave and millimeter solid-state amplifiers without compromising electrical performance. Low-power consumption prolongs battery life and reduces cooling requirements, especially important attributes for applications requiring small size and weight. The DoD, Navy and Marine Corps increasingly rely on small platforms, such as autonomous sensors, unmanned-air-vehicles, satellites, and man-portable systems. NRL and other research laboratories have been studying high-electron-mobility-transistors (HEMTs) as the next-generation high-speed, low-power technology to help achieve new capabilities in such electronic systems.

In 2001, DARPA started a program called Antimonide-Based-Compound-Semiconductors (ABCS) to accelerate research in this field. NRL, in turn, teamed with Northrop-Grumman Space Technology (NGST) in this research effort. NRL has the capabilities for material growth and device processing, making it a leading institution for HEMT technology. NGST has capabilities in the design and fabrication of microwave monolithic integrated circuits. Thus NRL and NGST brought their expertise together for the research project. A CRADA was established between the two institutions for NRL to transfer their growth and processing technology for antimonide HEMTs to NGST. NRL-grown material was used to fabricate devices at the NGST facility and NGST-grown material was then evaluated at NRL.

In a major milestone, the research team demonstrated a NGST antimonide-based HEMT with a record maximum frequency of oscillation and an order of magnitude less power consumption than HEMTs based on competitive semiconductor material systems. Other milestones include demonstration of an antimonide-based X-band MMIC (microwave monolithic integrated circuit) with state-of-the-art, low-power performance and the first antimonide-based W-band (94GHz) MMIC.

The award citation describes the importance of the research team's accomplishments in this way: "The significance for the Navy of this new device technology based on antimonide semiconductors is its ability to perform electronic functions at very high speeds equivalent or better than the best of alternative technologies but with an order-of-magnitude less prime power consumption - a property that will result in greatly improved Navy radar, electronic warfare, multifunctional, and communications systems as well as extended battery life for small-platform applications such as hand-held, satellite, and micro-air-vehicles for the Marine Corps."

"Through their efforts, the NRL research team, working with NGST, has helped to establish the antimonide HEMT as the next generation high-speed/high-frequency low-power microwave transistor of great importance to the Navy and Marine Corps," said Dr. Gerald Borsuk, Superintendent of the Electronics Science and Technology Division.

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