Classical transmit/receive modules for radar systems use separate circuits for the transmitter and receiver. For radar systems on board satellites it is very important that these transmit/receive modules are as small and light weight as possible. That is why ESA has asked TNO to investigate the possibility to integrate the full transmit/receive front-end electronics on a single chip. By making clever use of the new Gallium-Nitride semiconductor technology TNO has succeeded in the integration of the power amplifier, transmit-receive switch and low-noise amplifier on a single chip. The size of this chip is 6 x 6 mm2 and it can deliver an output power of 40 W. With respect to the existing front-end electronics this new design delivers 3x more output power in a 40% smaller area without sacrificing the noise figure of the receiver. This new chip enables radar systems with higher sensitivity, while the size and weight of the transmit/receive modules can be reduced significantly.
This project has been executed with the cooperation of United Monolithic Semiconductors (UMS) in France and Airbus in Germany. UMS has been responsible for the processing of the chip in their 0.25 μm AlGaN/GaN-on-SiC MMIC technology. Airbus is the end-user of this chip and developer of the Sentinel-1 radar system, for which this chip has been designed.
ESA has published the results of this project on their website as example of “shaping the future”. Furthermore, this project has resulted in a publication for the IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, entitled “C-Band Single-Chip Radar Front-End in AlGaN/GaN Technology”.