Transphorm Wins DARPA Contract

October 31, 2021 by Shannon Cuthrell

GaN product supplier Transphorm landed a $1.4 million contract with DARPA to explore alternative radio frequency solutions using Nitrogen-polar on sapphire substrates.

Transphorm, a California-based supplier of Gallium-Nitride (GaN) power conversion devices, was awarded a $1.4 million contract from the U.S. government to research performance and cost factors for manufacturing sapphire-based Nitrogen-polar (N-polar) GaN solutions for defense and commercial radio frequency (RF) applications. 


Image courtesy of Transphorm


The award provides $0.9 million with a $.05 million option by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the primary research and development arm of the Department of Defense. Transphorm will develop the epiwafer technology, while the University of California-Santa Barbara will subcontract to fabricate the RF/mm-wave transistors for the project.

Transphorm already has an ongoing relationship with the U.S. Office of Naval Research, working on establishing a domestic supply base for RF GaN epiwafers. (A presentation to investors in August says the company’s Navy contract revenue has totaled about $3 million in 2021.)

Its latest work with the Office of Naval Research involves N-polar GaN technology, which provides better cost-efficiency than the standard Gallium-polar (Ga-polar) on silicon carbide solutions. The company says N-polar GaN offers superior efficiencies at frequencies as high as 94 GHz, making it suitable for defense systems and 5G and 6G applications.

The three project objectives are to establish a value proposition for N-polar GaN-on-sapphire solutions, determine the high-performance parameters and define the viability of building the epiwafers.

In the announcement, Transphorm CTO and Co-Founder Umesh Mishra said the contract is an opportunity for the company to build on its position as a premium RF epiwafer supplier, its second business vertical.

“The goal now is to take that foundation and enable our RF epi customers to achieve more efficient RF power for the dollar,” Mishra added. “Sapphire is an attractive material choice for this purpose but has historically been dismissed as it has low heat conductance. We believe that, with innovative engineering, the program team can overcome that limitation and are excited for the chance to set that benchmark for the GaN RF industry.”

The contract comes as Transphorm saw a 33% revenue boost over the last quarter due to heightened demand, according to its latest earnings report for the first quarter of 2022. It cited record GaN product sales for fast chargers and adapters, along with increases in higher power conversion applications like gaming, data centers and cryptocurrency mining. Its revenue for the quarter totaled $3.2 million, compared to $2.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2021.