Editor’s Notes: John C. Zolper, Ph.D. is the Vice President of Research and Development at Raytheon, an American corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military and commercial electronics. So yeah, neat stuff.
I’ve got a riddle for you. What do Blu-ray disks, military radars and LED light bulbs have in common? Chances are, if you work outside of the defense or electronics sectors, you may not easily make the connection. But the common thread is a little-known technology called Gallium Nitride (GaN for short). GaN is evolving rapidly behind the scenes to transform many aspects of modern day life, while also serving vitally important roles within our nation’s military.
GaN is a wide band gap semiconductor material with special properties that are ideal for applications in optoelectronics, and high-power, high-frequency amplifiers. Aerospace and defense innovators have long recognized the critical competitive advantages GaN represents for high frequency electronics – including significant cost, size, weight and power reduction capabilities – and have spent years refining and continuously pushing GaN technology to new limits. For example, GaN is playing an integral role in developing more reliable military radars that can be five times more powerful than traditional systems or only half the size. In recent years, technologists across a number of commercial industries have taken notice of these pioneering innovations for the military, and have started putting GaN to work to power every day technologies in ways that significantly reduce energy costs and environmental impact.