TRW unveils powerful new microwave amplifier chip

By J.R. Wilson

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — Engineers from TRW Inc. are announcing a microwave power amplifier chip they claim will deliver world record levels of power per unit of semiconductor area for integrated circuits operating faster than 20 GHz.

Using a high-performance semiconductor material known as indium phosphide (InP), the chip achieved an output power density of 360 milliwatts per square millimeter at 23 GHz.

"High performance microwave power amplifiers are a key requirement for next-generation digital radios and space-based communication systems," says Dwight Streit, vice president for advanced semiconductors at TRW in Redondo Beach, Calif. "Our new InP power amplifier demonstrates not only record power density that's at least twice that of any other power amplifier available today, but also provides excellent linearity and power-added efficiency."

TRW engineers say they hope to bring InP technology to specific commercial telecommunication markets in the coming year. Low-volume pilot production of the new chip is scheduled for early 2001.

The InP chip, with an output power of 400 milliwatts, was developed by TRW under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Sensors Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, as part of the government's Dual Use Science and Technology program.

"This technology achievement paves the way for advanced, power-efficient active apertures used in space-based and airborne radars," says Tim Kemerley, chief of the AFRL Aerospace Components and Subsystems Technology Division, Sensors Directorate.

"These aerospace radar systems will need highly efficient transmit amplifiers, as well as novel approaches to antenna packaging and integration, to meet requirements for multifunction performance, low mass and affordable cost," he says.

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