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John O | February 2018

Gallium nitride becoming affordable option for networking solutions

by josh perry, editor


an article from network world outlined the growth of gallium nitride (gan) in the networking industry, as costs for the semiconductor material have dropped to a level that it is now accessible outside of military applications, where it has been used in defense radar and communication systems.


gallium nitride is becoming more common in networking applications.
(wikimedia commons)


with an increase in smart technologies showcased at the recent ces 2018 trade show in las vegas, nevada, there is also a need for networks to provide more bandwidth, more data, and more high-gain, high-power rf solutions, which is where gan comes in.


“no matter the flavor, gan means power,” wrote network world contributor brent dietz, who noted that gan can be used with numerous materials like silicon, silicon carbide, germanium, or even diamond.


dietz added, “gan operates reliably at higher temperatures and over longer lifetimes, making it perfect for aerospace and defense applications in harsh environments. for example, since the 1990s, gan has been used in space applications, communications systems and active electronically scanned array (aesa) radar.”


gan is becoming commercially-available because of advances in plastic packaging that has made it cheaper, lightweight, and offers more design flexibility. dietz explained that the plastic packaging also allows systems to be upgraded without creating new devices.


why is gan effective for networking applications? dietz said, “gan increases rf performance and system efficiency at higher bandwidths, required for today’s high-speed networks. in fact, gan amplifiers deliver higher output power than legacy technologies, while reducing consumption by as much as 20 percent.”


the semiconductor’s thermal properties also give it greater long-term reliability and make it useful for keeping cellular base stations cool even as data demands require enhanced performance. as dietz pointed out, this is even more critical as talk of 5g heats up.


“the challenge is operating gan at lower voltage levels,” dietz said about the potential for gan to be used in handheld devices. “typical operating voltages for radar, base stations and cable tv applications range between 28 and 48 volts. in handheld devices, the average range is 2.7 to 5 volts. we are already working on new process technology and packing techniques to allow gan to operate at these low voltages.”


read the full article at https://www.networkworld.com/article/3251508/lan-wan/a-gan-do-attitude-for-networking.html.

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