New Iteration of Semiconductor Saves Big Bucks on Energy

TriQuint Semiconductor manufactures a wide range of GaAs and GaN devices, providing network solutions for more than 25 years.  The company, through its TriAccess line acquired in 2009, provides GaAs solutions for optical receivers in node and distribution amplifiers within HFC networks. TriQuint states that while GaN technology can save as much as 30 percent on energy costs in some positions, its higher costs and relative newness in CATV infrastructure applications will likely limit short term uptake. However, when combined with GaAs, GaN will likely define the future of CATV infrastructure in terms of efficiency, gain and overall cost effectiveness.

For a little background, Chis Day, senior director of engineering with TriQuint, explained that GaAs or GaN or silicon are the basic atomic building blocks of transistors.

"Silicon was the basic material to make amplifiers up until 10 years ago," said Day. "For the high-output levels of signal that allow you to economize the distribution plant, silicon market share is clearly on the decline. The GaAs devices and now GaN provide significant performance over silicon."

A GaN transistor can support higher voltages without having problems, said Day. There’s always a tradeoff between how much voltage a device can handle and how fast it operates – between speed and power. The way the gallium in the nitride fits in the crystal structure makes GaN fundamentally better than GaAs, he said.

That’s the micro level. At the macro level, GaN is more efficient and saves money on energy costs.

"If you look at the green utilization, you’re looking at about a 30 percent savings," said Day, adding that operators say their number one operating expense is utility power consumption. And there are connected benefits to lowering power consumption: equipment is kept cooler; and the deployment of backup power supplies is improved.

TriQuint has foundry capability – the wafer of GaAs and GaN devices – and also manufactures packaged and die-level RF integrated circuits from its wafers. These circuits meet a variety of signal amplification needs for the cable industry including equipment found at the network headend and in optical / FTTH systems. In 2009 TriQuint acquired TriAccess Technologies to expand its cable product line and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) portfolio.

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