UCSB Transistor Triumphs

May 10, 1999

A next-generation transistor developed by Dr. M. J. W. Rodell and his team at U.C. Santa Barbara recently set a world record achieving a maximum frequency of oscillation of 1200 gigahertz -- about 2,000 times faster than transistors in today's computers. When used in logic circuits, this blazing fast transistor will enable direct digital synthesis of radar signals, thereby increasing the sensitivity and versatility of solid-state radar systems currently being developed to improve the performance of existing Navy systems. Most of these systems are still based on vacuum electronics. Added sensitivity is a real advantage in the littoral, or coastal, zones where land formations, man-made structures and human activity create a lot of background clutter. The problem is not as severe on the open ocean. The UCSB transistor's improved sensitivity, or lower "phase noise" in the transmitter, will allow Navy systems to pick up enemy threats in the littoral battlespace. A Navy radar system must be able to pick out of the clutter the signal of a small, high-speed object such as a shoulder-launched missile coming out of a cave on the side of a mountain. The transistor's configuration is a modified version of the heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) design. The new configuration nearly eliminates parasitic capacitance to yield record switching speeds in the inherently low phase noise HBT design. Because transistors are integral components of integrated circuits, the UCSB transistor may have important consequences for the semiconductor industry.
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Office of Naval Research

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