Filtronic, a leading designer of RF, microwave and mmWave products, has announced its involvement in a groundbreaking feasibility study aimed at improving and scaling up semiconductor design and manufacturing within the UK.

The initiative is part of Innovate UK’s investment of up to £11.5 million in innovation projects to advance semiconductor manufacturing capabilities across the nation.

The project, named “OPTIME-PA: Optimal MMIC design of E-band power amplifiers for Satcom using dedicated measurements and non-linear modelling,” addresses the critical need for accurate simulations in predicting the performance of Microwave Monolithic Integrated Circuit (MMIC) designs for millimetre-wave applications. Given the inherent challenges of tuning MMICs once they are manufactured, precise modelling is vital for achieving first-pass design success, reducing development cycles, lowering manufacturing costs and enhancing product competitiveness.

The design of linear circuits is relatively straightforward, relying on linear measurements and electromagnetic (EM) simulations to predict performance. However, designing power amplifiers (PAs) poses additional complexities, as large-signal, non-linear models must be used. While generic models provided by integrated circuit foundries yield reasonable results for various applications, they lack the necessary accuracy to optimise performance for specific applications.

The primary objective of this collaboration is to establish a robust methodology for accelerating the design process and enhancing competitiveness in terms of performance and time-to-market for E-band power amplifiers in Gallium Nitride (GaN) MMIC technology. To achieve this, the partners will develop a dedicated transistor model by leveraging the unique, advanced non-linear measurements located at Cardiff University.

The high-value experimental data obtained will enable Filtronic to design MMICs dedicated to E-Band (71-86GHz) for space applications, gaining a significant competitive advantage in the rapidly expanding New-Space market. This advantage stems from the market’s demand for low-cost, low-SWAP (Size, Weight, and Power), and high-performance devices. Until now, E-band designs have been constrained to established and well-modelled Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) processes, limiting their application in the space industry.

“By pushing the boundaries of semiconductor design and manufacture, this project aims to revolutionise the industry, unlock new possibilities for space applications, and position the UK as a global leader in semiconductor technology,” said Tudor Williams, director of technology at Filtronic. “Filtronic is honoured to be a part of this, and we look forward to collaborating with Innovate UK, UK Research and Innovation, Cardiff University and other key partners.”

This project stands out for its innovative approach, introducing experimentally driven behavioural transistor models at E-band for the design of advanced power amplifiers. Leveraging a world-unique mmWave measurement system, this feasibility study paves the way for groundbreaking advancements in semiconductor manufacturing, driving the growth of the UK’s technology industry.