Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Resetting the bar on power semiconductors

Posted by John Keller

Here's a heads-up that you're likely to start reading about a fundamental advancement in power transistor technology from a company called HVVi Semiconductors Inc. in Phoenix.

HVVi is getting ready to announce a technology its leaders call high-voltage vertical field effect transistors -- otherwise known as HVVFETs -- for military power-intensive applications like avionics and ground-based pulsed radar.

The big advantage of HVVFET technology for systems designers is small size, light weight, and little power consumption. The reason is that each device can handle substantially more power, and at higher frequencies, than the technologies HVVFET is designed to replace.

Company officials say an HVVFET device can handle as much as 150 volts at frequencies as high as 12.5 GHz. Compare that to competing technologies like diffusion metal oxide semiconductor (DMOS) and laterally diffused metal oxide semiconductor (LDMOS), company officials say.

DMOS devices, they claim, can handle 28 to 50 volts at frequencies as high as 500 MHz, while LDMOS, they say, can handle 28 to 32 volts at frequencies as high as 3.5 GHz. The new technology even performs better at lower cost than gallium nitride (GaN) technology, they say.

The big story behind HVVFET, they say, is fewer devices to handle the same or larger workloads.

Some systems designers speculate that HVVFET technology could help trim as much as 300 pounds of weight off of aircraft-based radar systems because of fewer components, increased efficiencies, and relatively little need for active cooling.

HVVFET uses proprietary vertical technology based on proprietary edge termination that enables high voltage operation, company officials say. this approach, they claim, can double power density, improve efficiency by 30 percent, and double the gain and ruggedness relative to competing technologies.

HVVi leaders may announce products as early as this month -- the first of which are likely to be 48-volt devices operating at 1.2 to 1.4 GHz.

This could be a big deal, so keep your eyes open.

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