$1 Million DARPA contract to empower the wireless systems of the future

Prof. Elaheh Ahmadi is working to design a new kind of semiconductor that can provide high power at high frequencies

Prof. Elaheh Ahmadi has been awarded a $1 million contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to design a new kind of semiconductor that can empower the sensor and communication systems of the future.

“We are living in an era where communications are becoming more and more wireless, so we need devices that can provide high power at high frequency to enhance the communications infrastructure,” Ahmadi says. “We’re hoping to create the building blocks for these devices.”

Conventional semiconductors are limited in their ability to provide high power at high frequencies, which makes it difficult to advance beyond 5G. In the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles, there is an urgent need for high-power and high frequency transistors that can facilitate ultra-fast, highly reliable, and low latency wireless networks.

To serve the RF applications of the future, new transistors are needed which can provide a combination of high power density and high efficiency at high frequencies.  Ahmadi is looking to create a hybrid semiconductor that literally combines the best of a variety of materials to achieve performance beyond the roadmap of any one semiconductor. She plans to mix Gallium Oxide with dissimilar materials to overcome the limitations of traditional Gallium Nitride transistors.

“It’s a very high-risk project, but it could produce breakthrough performance for beyond-5G applications,” Ahmadi says. “I’m excited to see what happens.”

The project is in collaboration with University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, Berkeley.