Resetting the bar on power semiconductors

By John Keller

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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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2
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