Soctera, Inc. awarded $1,000,000 Phase II SBIR grant by the National Science Foundation!

SBIR Phase II: Thermally-optimized power amplifiers for next-generation telecommunication and radar

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project enables the next generation of wireless communication that makes our world smarter and safer. The promise of 5G is to enable unprecedented connectivity – smart cars, smart homes, etc. The technology also promises equity of information in the form of broadband coverage across the United States. Thus far, the dream of 5G has been limited due to poor signal range and prohibitive cooling costs. This solution is a thermally-optimized power amplifier that dramatically increases signal range and stays cool – reducing costs. As a result of boosted signal range, broadband coverage will be incentivized in more rural areas, preventing the deepening of the digital divide. Lower costs enable next-generation connectivity between smart devices – such as that between cars which can dramatically lower motor vehicle accidents. Finally, the development and production of this technology, all within the United States, will contribute to the ongoing effort to revitalize the nation’s semiconductor industry.

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project focuses on the scaling and commercialization of an innovative power amplifier technology. State-of-the-art power amplifiers (PAs) are made of gallium nitride. In many cases, the performance of these PAs is thermally limited – they can’t handle the heat they generate during operation. The result for wireless communication systems, such as 5G telecom and radar systems, is limited signal range and high cooling costs. By inserting a thin aluminum nitride layer in its semiconductor stack, the power amplifiers developed in this Phase II project will have significantly improved thermal management, resulting in increased efficiency and power handling capabilities. The resulting power amplifiers will reduce cooling cost and increase signal range, enabling next generation telecommunications and advanced radar systems. In this project, production will transition from the university lab to a scaled, commercial process. This transition will involve multiple rounds of power amplifier fabrication and assessment, as well as the formation and maintenance of key partnerships. The result of this project will be a demonstration of the minimum viable product at commercial scale.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.