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Millimetre wave Gallium Nitride Space evaluation and application to Observation Satellites

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MiGANSOS (Millimetre wave Gallium Nitride Space evaluation and application to Observation Satellites)

Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2021-12-31

In the field of advanced technologies for RF components, use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) has been greatly pushed due to its inherent capability to provide simultaneously a power density up to 5 times higher than the well-assessed Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) and comparable noise performance. Such combination makes GaN attractive for many of the applications requiring miniaturization and efficiency. HEMT devices based on this technology have been developed with 0.5 and 0.25 µm gate lengths for applications up to X Band, while more recently the trend is reducing gate length to expand its applicability into the millimetre-wave range.
Focusing on space sector, the availability of high power devices operating at millimetre-wave frequencies is of primary importance for several applications. As far as Earth Observation (EO) systems are concerned, use of high operating frequencies and functions realised on GaN-based technologies enables the development of very compact high resolution SAR for imagery or radar altimetry. These new instruments create opportunities for science, climate change studies and implementation of new complex systems for civil/security applications.
In the above scenario, the MiGaNSOS project focuses four objectives:
• First Objective is to assess and space-evaluate a "state of the art" GaN/Si process for open foundry use, leading to new industrial products greatly influencing European companies’ competitiveness. The process is the 100 nm GaN/Si technology developed by OMMIC.
• Second Objective consists in the demonstration of the simultaneous use of 100 nm and 60 nm GaN/Si technologies. This goal is accomplished by integrating, into the same circuit, devices in both technologies. Such unique feature, represents a real technological breakthrough.
• Third objective resides in the demonstration of future application of the developed technologies in advanced space equipment by integrating the realised chips in a demonstrator replicating the basic building block (micro-tile) of a Ka Band active antenna.
• The fourth objective consists in disseminating the obtained results, making available the evaluated technology to the scientific and industrial communities and addressing new market opportunities.
MiGaNSOS has been structured in 6 workpackages, each split into tasks. Two WPs are continuously running all through the project: WP1 (Project Management and Coordination) and WP6 (Dissemination and Exploitation).
Regarding WP1, main aim consists in the coordination of the technical activities and control of the financial flows, with the establishment of appropriate project relations and reporting to the Commission; an efficient communication system among partners has been set up, making use of a collaborative environment (EMDESK tool). WP6 aims at maximizing the impact of MiGaNSOS by ensuring the take up of its outcomes in the European and Worldwide Space Industry. Regarding strictly technical WPs, WP2, dealing with technology characterisation and models extraction, produced versions of improved Process Design KITs (PDKs), both for the 100 and 60nm technologies, representing a key element for technology potentials exploitation via successful designs. WP3 has been dedicated to circuit and test vehicles realisation, experiencing two foundry runs in total and resulting in state of the art performance in line with specifications for HPA, LNA, SPDT and their SCFE integration. In the same WP, test vehicles to be used for space qualification heve been designed, realised and tested: discrete evaluation circuit (DEC), test characterisation vehicle (TCV) and representative integrated circuit (RIC), adopted in WP4. The latter is dedicated to space evaluation, with the release of a reliability test plan, detailing all the tests to be performed on DEC, TCV and RIC. Such test plan benefitted from the feedback by the project External Expert Advisory Board, formed by leading experts in the field from research community, companies and international bodies (ESA and CNES). WP5 is devoted to system demonstrator antenna tile for EO in Ka Band.

At the end of the project, with reference to the four main objectives, of the project,

- The targeted technology, 100nm GaN MMIC from OMMIC, has been extensively studied together with the more advanced 60nm GaN one, leading to renewed PDKs and modelling and designed and successfully tested demonstrators (HPA, LNA and SPDT switch MMICs together with their integrated Single-Chip Front-End at Ka Band). Space evaluation has been carried out, leading to the definition of a reliability test plan, realisation of test circuits (DEC, RIC and TCV) and reliability tests on the previous circuits, where RIC life tests are still under way.

- Simultaneous use of 60nm and 100nm technologies has been exploited and hence fully demonstrated: LNAs and HPAs adopting the 60nm technology for the first stages and the 100 nm for the final ones have been designed and realised, leading to resulting performance improved for noise figure (for the former) and gain (for the latter). The integration of HPA and LNA into a SFCE has been also demonstrated and a successful comparison has been also carried out with an 'all-100 nm' SCFE. Ancillary circuitry (distributed amplifier with cascode cells in mixed technology) further validates the exploitation.

- The realised MMIC building blocks have been integrated into T/R modules to form a tile of an active antenna operating at Ka Band for future EO payloads. The successful integration of the active part has been demonstrated, while the realisation of the antenna demonstrator is waiting for passive components from external suppliers.

- The obtained results have been disseminated both in academic/industrial environments, leading to open scientific publications in major intenational journals and conference presentations. In addition, diffusion to the more generall public has been pursued, with workshops, open days and nation-wide magazine. As a result, the adoption of the 100nm GaN MMIC technology has grown along the years, leading to an increasing number of both dedicated foundry runs and multi-project shared wafers. The space community indeed considers OMMIC 100nm GaN MMIC technology as one of the preferred option for Space-related millimeter-wave circuit realisation.

As a final remark, it is to note that further activities are being exploited related to OMMIC technology space evaluation. A project, financed within the frame of CNES activities, is actually running aimed at the radiation hardness testing of the 100 nm Gan MMIC technology.
MiGaNSOS attained notable results. The realised MMICs in fact exhibit performance at least in line with the state of the art, with peaks in the LNA and SCFE dies. Similarly, the 100nm GaN/Si technology is already being diffused via MPW runs to spread out its use initially for prototyping among the industrial and academic communities. Completion of the space evaluation activities is expected soon, thus leading to a fully space-qualified tecnology.
Such results will have major impacts. Millimeter-wave space systems, not only for EO, but also for satellite communications, will benefit from a fully European space-qualified and state of the art technology, thus allowing improved perfromance and, in turn, better and augmented services to the end-users in both domains. More compact systems wil be developed and complex architectures will be possible.
HPA at Ka Band
LNA at Ka Band
SPDTs at Ka Band
Single RF chain detail
Test assembly for the integrated radiating element and BFN, top view
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SCFE in 100 nm Technology