Paul van Gerven
13 January

Imec has identified some promising leads for beyond-5G mm-wave front-end technologies. The first functional devices, one type for frequencies above 100 GHz and another for the lower mm-wave bands, show good potential, reports the Leuven research institute.

In 5G, there’s a move away from the congested sub-6 GHz bands to mm-waves, a trend that will likely continue towards even higher frequencies in next generations of wireless communication technologies. Today’s RF front-end technology won’t be able to handle that, however: it wouldn’t be possible to combine the required high speed with high output power.

“To enable the next-generation RF front-end modules beyond 5G, Imec explores scalable CMOS-compatible III-V-on-Si technology,” says Nadine Collaert, program director at Imec. “Imec is looking into co-integration of front-end components – such as power amplifiers and switches – with other CMOS-based circuits – such as control circuitry or transceiver technology – to reduce cost and form factor, and enabling new hybrid circuit topologies to address performance and efficiency.”

Imec is exploring two different routes: indium phosphide (InP) on silicon, targeting mm-wave and frequencies above 100 GHz, and GaN-based devices on silicon, initially targeting the lower mm-wave bands and addressing applications in need of high power densities. “For both routes, we’ve now obtained first functional devices with promising performance characteristics and we identified ways to further enhance their operating frequencies,” says Collaert.

Techwatch Books: ASML's Architects

Imec first showed these results at the IEDM, last month in San Francisco. They’ll also be presented at the IEEE CCNC this week in Las Vegas.