Integration of RF Circuits with High Speed GaN Switching on Silicon Substrates

Lead Research Organisation: Cardiff University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Future generation (5G) mobile phones and other portable devices will need to transfer data at a much higher rate than at present in order to accommodate an increase in the number of users, the employment of multi-band and multi-channel operation, the projected dramatic increase in wireless information exchange such as with high definition video and the large increase in connectivity where many devices will be connected to other devices (called "The Internet of Things"). This places big challenges on the performance of base stations in terms of fidelity of the signal and improved energy efficiency since energy usage could increase in line with the amount of data transfer. To meet the predicted massive increase in capacity there will be a reduced reliance on large coverage base-stations, with small-cell base-stations (operating at lower power levels) becoming much more common. In addition to the challenges mentioned above, small cells will demand a larger number of low cost systems.

To meet these challenges this proposal aims to use electronic devices made from gallium nitride (GaN) which has the desirable property of being able to operate at very high frequencies (for high data transfer rates) and in a very efficient manner to reduce the projected energy usage. To maintain the high frequency capability of these devices, circuits will be integrated into a single circuit to reduce the slowing effects of stray inductances and capacitances. Additionally these integrated circuits will be manufactured on large area silicon substrates which will reduce the system unit cost significantly.

The proposed high levels of integration using GaN devices as the basic building block and combining microwave and switching technologies have never been attempted before and requires a multi-disciplinary team with complementary specialist expertise. The proposed consortium brings together the leading UK groups with expertise in GaN crystal growth (Cambridge), device design and fabrication (Sheffield), high frequency circuit design and fabrication (Glasgow), variable power supply design (Manchester) and high frequency characterisation and power amplifier design (Cardiff). Before designing and developing the technology for fabricating the integrated systems to demonstrate the viability of the proposed solutions, a deep scientific understanding is required into how the quality of the GaN crystals on silicon substrates affect the operation of the devices. In summary, the powerful grouping within the project will bring together the expertise to design and produce the novel integrated circuits and systems to meet the demanding objectives of this research proposal.


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Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
EP/N014820/1 01/08/2016 31/12/2017 £770,790
EP/N014820/2 Transfer EP/N014820/1 01/01/2018 31/07/2020 £513,015
Description Establishing industry relationship with compound semiconductor UK industry; this was done via the submission of Innovate UK grant proposal jointly with The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) in Cardiff. Cardiff University also involved in this potential collaborative program with major UK industry in wafer growth IQE and Major fabrication facilities Newport Wafer Fab.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Transport,Other
Impact Types Cultural,Economic,Policy & public services

Description A Feasibility Study for the Development of GaN - based High Frequency RF Devices
Amount £148,843 (GBP)
Funding ID 103440 
Organisation Innovate UK 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 09/2018
Description GaN sensors, design, technology and reports
Amount £27,000 (GBP)
Funding ID GaN sensors, design, technology and reports 
Organisation University of Cambridge 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2018 
End 03/2019
Description Non-linear (large signal) Millimetre-wave Devices, Circuits and Systems On-Wafer Characterization Facility
Amount £1,459,152 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S01005X/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2019
Description Microwave and Millimeter-wave GaN - Wafer to IC Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The Centre for High Frequency Engineering at Cardiff University invites researchers and industry to attend the scheduled Microwave and Millimeter-wave GaN - Wafer to IC workshop on 25th April 2018 at Cardiff University. The aim of the workshop is to present up to date Microwave and Millimeter-wave GaN technology development and discusses its future potential in the area of 5G, space and security.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description THz Electronics for Communication and Remote Sensing Systems Workshop- 21st European Microwave Week - (EuMC/EuRAD) - 23RD - 28TH SEPTEMBER 2018, Madrid Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The frequency range from around 100 GHz to 1 THz provides opportunities for high data rate communications and high resolution imaging systems, but the so-called "THz gap" poses a range of interesting scientific and technological challenges. This half-day workshop will pull together results from several current projects in this field, highlighting recent advances and identifying some of the remaining challenges.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018