BENEFITING THE WIRELESS INDUSTRY
The wireless market is a diverse industry that encompasses a wide variety of commercial applications, including radio, radar, wireless Internet, satellite and cellular communications. Materion has multiple product lines that offer an array of products from PVD consumable materials to lids and solders, and services that encompass complete precious metal lifecycle support to meet the full range of your needs. From our perspective, the wireless market is represented by two divisions: consumer products and infrastructure.
Wireless connectivity has been embedded in a wide variety of familiar products including: cell phones, smart phones, tablet computers, laptop computers and peripherals, automobiles and motorcycles. Materion offers physical vapor deposition (PVD) products and services to firms that manufacture power amplifier (PA) chips to the handset industry, thus becoming an integral part of the finished product. Without PA chips, it would be impossible to amplify the digital voice or data signal toward the antenna and outward to the closest base station.
The most popular semiconductor material used to produce handset power amplifiers (PAs) is gallium arsenide (GaAs). GaAs-based power amplifiers are preferred over Silicon(Si)-based chips because GaAs PAs have superior power-added-efficiency. Because consumers demand a long battery life, GaAs has been the predominant power amplifier semiconductor since the introduction of digital wireless cell phones in 1999. Since then, the functionality of handsets has expanded to more power-hungry features (such as a camera, MP3 and video players, email, etc.).
As a leading supplier of PVD consumable materials to GaAs PA wafer fabs, Materion’s thin film metals are used to conduct electrical current, and make ohmic contact on both faces of each GaAs chip. We produce gold and gold-alloy evaporation slugs and sputtering targets for the power amplifier industry, as well as a variety of non-precious metal PVD materials. In addition, Materion offers complete precious metal lifecycle support including shield kit cleaning, refining and metal management services. Regardless of the make or model of the tablet computer or smart phone, there is a high probability that we supplied the thin film alloys in one or more of the GaAs chips in that product.
Other Materion products likely to be incorporated into consumer goods are lids and solders that are used to seal packages containing quartz oscillators and surface acoustic wave (SAW) filters. These sensitive devices must be encased in hermetic packages, protectively sealed by lids and lead-free solders, such as AuSn and SAC alloy.
In addition, both Brush Performance Alloys and Materion Technical Materials produce high performance alloys and clad alloys that are used in the connectors of some consumer products. These alloys provide the combination of modulus, hardness, and electrical conductivity necessary to meet the demanding requirements of connectors for battery chargers, USB ports and ear plugs.
The commercial market for wireless infrastructure is comprised of a number of applications: base stations for consumer wireless connectivity (cell phones, smart phones, wireless Internet), digital broadcast television towers, private radio networks (e.g., for police and fire departments) and radar. Modern cellular communication is made possible by base stations distributed over the country. Each station has a visible tower with antennae at the top and a base shack that houses racks of amplifiers responsible for generating the signal To reduce the large amount of waste heat emitted by the amplifiers, the shack must be air conditioned.
The delicate Si RF power transistors must be protected from oxygen and water vapor during their years of operation. Materion manufactures brazed ceramic packages (and matching Epo-Lids™) that house these transistors. For smaller devices, we offer unique CuPack™ surface mount packages. Our packages and lids must conduct the high heat dissipated beneath the transistors (100 – 500 W/cm2) away. In order to prevent corrosion, the packages are plated with gold, which also provides a “skin” with high electrical conductivity to support the shallow penetration depth of electrons at RF frequencies.
Materion ceramic packages and matching lids are also used for transistors that amplify signals for digital broadcast television, as well as commercial radar. Commercial radar applications include weather radar, air traffic control radar and Doppler radar (used to detect wind shear near runways). Additionally, all airliners are required to have collision-avoidance radar. There are even radar applications used in high-end automobiles like Mercedes Benz.
Materion Ceramics manufactures dry pressed Thermalox™ BeO ceramics that are used in some types of RF transistor packages. BeO-based RF packages are commonly used with Si bipolar and VMOS transistors, as well as SiC RF transistors. We also manufacture Durox™ 99.9% alumina substrates that are used for high performance microwave and millimeter wave hybrid circuits. A survey of ceramics for high power devices is discussed in the article, here.
Barr Precision Optics and Thin Film Coatings manufacture thin film hybrid circuits for RF and microwave applications. These circuits are built per the customer’s design, and are used for a variety of wireless applications, including radio and radar. Barr can fabricate thin film circuits on a wide variety of substrates, including BeO (sourced from Materion Ceramics), AlN, alumina, silicon, quartz, sapphire or ferrite. A unique capability of Barr is the ability to create a thin film “seed layer” that is lithographically patterned and then plated with up to 2 mils ( 50 µm) of electrolytic copper.
MATERIALS FOR ALL FACETS OF THE WIRELESS INDUSTRY
Materion provides materials to nearly all facets of the commercial wireless industry. Our materials are vital to the power amplifiers in consumer smart phones and tablets, as well as in the base stations that communicate with those handsets and tablets. Our materials are used in wireless radar and radios that keep you safe, ranging from the private radio networks used by police and fire departments, as well as to the collision avoidance radar that helps prevent collisions of commercial airliners. As wireless interconnectivity expands into new applications such as control of building lighting, and wireless utility meters (water, natural gas, electric power), expect Materion’s products and services to expand to meet that market.