New developments for the production of electronic components based on the efficient semiconductor gallium nitride help to move the European defence industry towards independence. A multinational research and development project under the leadership of the European Defence Agency (EDA) has succeeded in implementing the entire supply chain for the realization of power electronics components based on gallium nitride within Europe.
With the optimization of development and manufacturing techniques for power electronics based on gallium nitride (GaN), researchers and industry partners from five European countries pursue the aim of producing high quality GaN-based electronic devices in Europe, without relying on international suppliers. Due to the high efficiency and robustness of the semiconductor, GaN-based power electronic components already replace established technologies, mainly in the fields of radar and broadband amplifiers.
With respect to the increasing application of the efficient components in electronic defense and combat systems, the European defence industry is facing an increasing demand for the reliable supply of power electronic components. The technology is critical and will provide key enabling capabilities to a broad spectrum of Defence applications, reaching from advanced radar and communication antennas to electronic warfare.
An independent supply chain in Europe
Guided by the European Defence Agency (EDA), leading research institutions, universities, as well as defence related companies from Germany, France, Italy, Sweden and the United Kingdom worked together during the past four years in the project MANGA (Manufacturable GaN-SiC-substrates and GaN epitaxial wafers supply chain) in order to optimize gallium nitride technologies in Europe.
To facilitate an independent production of GaN-based electronic devices for military applications, it is necessary to implement the entire supply chain within Europe – reaching from the availability of Silicon Carbide (SiC) substrates for the epitaxial growth of gallium nitride, to the industrial manufacturing of High Electron Mobility Transistors (HEMT). In the scope of the project, GaN-based transistor layers were grown epitaxially on newly developed, high quality SiC-substrates. Applying established foundry processing, these transistor layers were finally used to produce fully European state-of-the-art High Electron Mobility Transistors. Both the quality of the SiC-substrates and the performance of the HEMT are comparable to equivalent benchmark-setting components produced in the United States.
Systems with increased reliability
Also in future projects, it will remain the goal of the EDA to further reduce the European defense industry’s dependence on international trade regulations. After having successfully realized the independent development and production of state-of-the-art transistors suitable for military applications, the project partners want to focus on the improvement of the reliability and material quality of the transistors. Results from universities participating in the project MANGA, where scientists studied the impact of variations in layer structures on the devices’ performance, will help to further optimize the HEMT-technology. In a follow-on project, the project partners want to achieve the qualification of an industrial European wafer supplier for state-of-the-art HEMT structures.
SOURCE: European Defence Agency