GaN Transistor Unlocks the Power of 5G

Startup company hopes to leverage its proprietary 3D GaN™ technology to improve 5G performance.

Spencer Chin, Senior Editor

June 27, 2022

2 Min Read
Finwave Semiconductor is targeting its GaN technology at power amplifiers for 5G applications.Image courtesy of Panther Media GmbH / Alamy

While 5G applications are proliferating everywhere, the industry continues to face a myriad of challenges implementing the technology. One of them has been the performance limitations of semiconductors for existing mmWave technology with regard to power consumption and low 5G radio efficiency.

Finwave Semiconductor, a startup company working on proprietary GaN technology, says it has developed a transistor technology that claims to provide higher output power, higher linearity, and lower cost than existing GaN technologies. The technology is compatible with existing silicon foundry production tools and is readily scalable for higher production.

Finwave originated in 2012 as Cambridge Electronics, an outgrowth of research on GaN FETs at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Its cofounders are Dr. Bin Lu, who is the current CEO of Finwave Semiconductor, and Professor Tomas Palacios, a professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT. Drawing from years of research in GaN technology, the pair invented a novel GaN transistor based on proprietary FinFET architecture.

After operating in stealth mode for years, the company has renamed itself Finwave Semiconductor, which will focus on leveraging its GaN FET technology for the fledgling 5G communications sector. The company is banking that its GaN technology can improve the performance power amplifiers used in mmWave networks for 5G, and possibly even 6G in the years ahead.

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Finwave Semiconductor’s GaN technology is based on its FinFET architecture which has both top and side gates, thus lending the term “3D” to its description, noted Lu in a recent conversation with Design News. “The 3D gate design provides for better electrostatic control and allow for higher frequency performance. The structure also improves device linearity with flatter gain and reduces memory effects,” he added.

According to the company, the improved linearity improves power amplifier efficiency at the backoff conditions required by complex modulation schemes. It also allows for simpler digital pre-distortion, thus improving performance. Finwave believes its technology can provide more than ten times the power of Si RF SOI technology and ten times higher linearity than current GaN transistors, at lower cost.

Standard Fab Processes

The company has designed the GaN technology to be fabricated in standard 8-in. CMOS fabs, with no special tools required. It allows for a continuous scaling of GaN transistors, from 8 to 12 in. fabs and from 0.13 micron to deeply scaled transistors.

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Thom Degnan, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Finwave Semiconductor, said that the company is now in discussion with several unnamed foundry partners to produce parts using the technology. The company expects to have prototype samples during the second half of 2022.

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected].


About the Author(s)

Spencer Chin

Senior Editor, Design News

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News, covering the electronics beat, which includes semiconductors, components, power, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and other related subjects. He is always open to ideas for coverage. Spencer has spent many years covering electronics for brands including Electronic Products, Electronic Buyers News, EE Times, Power Electronics, and electronics360. You can reach him at [email protected] or follow him at @spencerchin.

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