Advanced Integration Interconnection and Fabrication Growth for Domestic SOTA Radio Frequency Gallium Nitride (Starry Nite)

S²MARTS Project No. 21-12

The Department of the Navy (DoN) is seeking prototype support in the area of Advanced Integration Interconnection and Fabrication Growth for Domestic SOTA Radio Frequency Gallium Nitride (Starry Nite).

Over the last two decades, the Department of Defense (DoD) has supported the maturation of Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology due to its superior performance in high power, broadband Radio Frequency (RF) applications.  In comparison with Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), GaN offers higher output power, thermal conductivity, bandwidth, and power added efficiency (PAE).  In comparison with other RF semiconductors competing for 5G market space (e.g., Silicon Germanium (SiGe), Silicon, etc.), RF GaN is the only material with a path to potentially penetrate all 5G platforms:  sub-6GHz remote radio head, sub-6GHz massive multi-input multi-output (MIMO) active antenna systems (AAS), backhaul, and millimeter wave (mmW) small cells.  Unlike lower power RF materials which may be buoyed by non-military applications (e.g., automotive Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) and mobile handsets, etc.), it is strategic for the DoD to leverage the timely demands of a less captive SatCom market and support the maturation of domestic open RF GaN foundries within the United States Defense Industrial Base (DIB).

State-of-the-art (SOTA) foundry capabilities and advanced packaging are key technological discriminators amongst mmW applications, such as fifth generation (5G) communications, satellite communications (satcom), electronic warfare (EW), and radar.  To maintain leadership in RF microelectronics, the DIB requires accelerated maturation of domestic open foundries with SOTA RF GaN offerings.  Additionally, these SOTA fabrication capabilities require advanced interconnect (AIC) techniques to properly interface with recent evolutions in the DIB’s advanced packaging ecosystem.  Altogether, the Starry Nite project seeks to satisfy these needs within the DIB ecosystem.

Starry Nite seeks to mature domestic, open SOTA RF GaN foundries in alignment with the DoD advanced packaging ecosystem.  Therefore, program goals are as follows:

  1. RF GaN foundry maturation of Sub-15 (<0.15um) and Sub-10 (<0.10um) nodes
    1. Open foundry design access via multi-project wafer runs
    2. Secure design/Intellectual Property (IP) capture supporting technology transition to the DIB
  2. RF GaN AIC maturation of Sub-15 (<0.15um) and Sub-10 (<0.10um) nodes supporting wafer servicing for the DoD advanced packaging ecosystem.

The project is anticipated to have three phases. The anticipated period of performance will be to two years for Phase 1, two years for Phase 2, and five years for all three phases combined.