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The Health and Economical Benefits of Solid-State Cooking   Oct. 23, 2018

Featured Image (Courtesy of the RFE Alliance):

RFE Diagram.PNGThe ability to generate and amplify RF signals is nothing new – but solid-state RF energy has enormous potential beyond data transmission applications. As companies like MACOM and collaborative organizations such as the RF Energy Alliance (RFEA) continue to pioneer and develop this technology, enabling greater efficiency and control than previously possible with conventional technologies, the full potential of this technology for mass-market applications is beginning to take form.

Microwave cooking is one application that is already being radically transformed with solid-state RF energy, enabling healthier eating and broad economical benefits. Solid-state RF energy transistors generate hyper-accurate, controlled energy fields that are extremely responsive to the controller, resulting in optimal and precise use and distribution of RF energy. This offers benefits unavailable via alternate solutions, including lower-voltage drive, high efficiency, semiconductor-type reliability, a smaller form factor and a solid-state electronics footprint. Perhaps the most compelling benefit is the power-agility and hyper-precision enabled by this technology, yielding even energy distribution, unprecedented process control range and fast adaption to changing load conditions, not to mention a lifespan of more than 10 years.

Enabling Healthier Eating

Precise temperature control is essential for maintaining proper nutrients of food during the heating/cooking process. Microwave ovens leveraging solid-state power amplifiers enable precision and control of directed energy, which helps preserve the nutritional integrity of food, and prevent cold spots that negatively impact the dining experience.

Since today’s magnetron-based microwave ovens aren’t equipped to adapt to energy being absorbed by or reflected from the food as it cooks, they rely on open-loop, average heating assisted by the rotating turntable at the base of the cavity. This imprecise delivery of energy often results in over-cooking and hot spots that can lower the food’s nutritional value.

By using multiple solid-state power amplifiers and antennas with closed-loop feedback to adjust for precise energy absorption, the energy can be directed with greater precision to exactly where it’s needed and in a controlled way that ensures optimal temperature control. Rather than relying on moisture sensors that measure humidity in the cooking cavity – an indirect mode of measurement that’s sometimes implemented in modern magnetron-based microwave ovens – solid-state microwave ovens measure the properties of the food itself while it cooks, and adapt accordingly. This promotes the retention of the nutrients, moisture and flavors of the food.

Economical Impact

The adoption of solid-state microwave heating is expected to commence in the industrial and commercial cooking market, where the value that these systems provide will be well worth the modest increase in cost. Customers stand to gain significant advantages centric to system reliability, food processing speed and throughput.

With regard to system reliability, solid-state RF transistors can provide 10X longer lifespans of typical magnetrons – this is a major benefit in 24/7 production environments where frequent magnetron failures can slow production and require numerous, expensive service calls. By eliminating the rotating platters common to magnetron-based microwave ovens, system reliability is further increased due to the reduction of mechanical moving parts, which are a common point of failure.

Food processing speed and throughput are increased due to solid-state microwave ovens’ ability to heat and cook food much faster than magnetron-based systems, owing to the rapid energy transfer enabled by solid state RF power adapting to the changing food dielectric. Solid-state RF technology is particularly valuable for food defrosting processes, enabling food to be defrosted much faster and more evenly than it can today, without drying or damaging the food.

With continued innovation in solid-state GaN-based RF technology and cost structure improvements, this technology is expected to eventually migrate to consumer kitchens, and in so doing has the potential to change perceptions of the modern microwave oven. Its value will evolve from that of a simple heating device, to a device that’s capable of cost-effectively cooking healthier, multi-course meals with unprecedented efficiency.

Proven Technology

This revolutionary cooking technology is already being successfully demonstrated. At IMS 2016, MACOM demonstrated this with our 300 W RF transistor in a solid-state oven baking muffins. The following year, at IMS 2017, MACOM announced their RF Energy Toolkit aimed at accelerating customers’ time to market by making it easier to fine tune RF energy output levels to maximize efficiency and performance.

Earlier this year, at IMS 2018, MACOM demonstrated the controllability of GaN-on-Si-based solid-state RF energy by successfully cooking the traditional Japanese Onsen Tamago. This dish is traditionally slow cooked using rope nets in the water of onsen hot springs in Japan at 70 °C for 30-40 minutes, enabling the egg yolk and egg white to solidify at different temperatures. The result is a dish of unique texture, with both a creamy outer layer and firm inner yolk. With the controllability enabled by solid-state RF energy, MACOM cooked this traditional dish in only 6-8 minutes, achieving the same desired consistency accomplished in the onsen hot springs.

Looking Forward

As with any emerging technology, the speed of RF energy technology’s commercial adoption hinges in part on collaborative industry efforts to establish common standards. Organizations like the RF Energy Alliance, composed of industry leaders spanning semiconductor vendors, commercial appliance OEMs and more, aim to help standardize RF energy system components, modules and application interfaces. In turn, this standardization will help to  reduce system costs, minimize design complexity, ease application integration and facilitate rapid market adoption (learn more about MACOM’s RF Energy Toolkit).

Thanks to continued advances such as these, the RF industry is closer than ever to enabling a more advanced, smarter kitchen for commercial restaurants and consumers around the world.


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Optical and Photonic Networks for 5G: Innovating at the Component Level   Sep. 04, 2018

MACOM in conversation with Verizon

vivek verizon.PNGAs technology continues to advance and new innovative solutions seem to appear daily, all eyes are looking to what’s next. For MACOM and Verizon, the next big step is the enablement and deployment of 5G communications networks. Verizon, being a telecommunications carrier, is eager to provide faster, more reliable connections to their customers, and MACOM is in a unique position to leverage its technology portfolio to develop the components that will make these new 5G networks possible.

Recently MACOM’s Vivek Rajgarhia, SVP and GM of the Lightwave Business Unit, had the opportunity to sit down to discuss recent product and technology innovation with Glenn Wellbrock, Director, Backbone Network Design, of Verizon. It was an interesting conversation throughout, spanning the growth and evolution of MACOM, to the direction in which the telecommunications industry is moving, and most importantly how these things intersect.

Rajgarhia began the conversation by explaining the history of MACOM, from the company’s founding nearly 70 years ago in the RF microwave industry, to present day where optics and photonics have become a significant focus for MACOM, highlighting how the portfolio of technologies has expanded to include Silicon Photonics (SiPh), Silicon Germanium (SiGe) and many more. More than ever before, MACOM is positioned as a preeminent supplier from RF to Light.

With 5G trending worldwide, companies and consumers alike are interested in the optimal development of 5G networks and the ability to deploy at a larger, more reliable scale to meet the ever-increasing demand for data. Growth in the telecommunications sector and the evolution of the components that will enable 5G is a main discussion point in the video, with both Wellbrock and Rajgarhia discussing how current technologies are growing toward a larger, more connected network.  The challenges being worked through while developing these technologies will optimize them for use in large-scale network architectures that will allow faster, more reliable connections between users. Wellbrock spoke about the evolution of laser technologies and how the jump from 10G lasers to 100G speeds occurred out of necessity to meet capacity requirements, while the jump from 100G to 400G will be an optimization move. Much of the foundation for the 5G network is already in place, but the challenge lies in optimizing this backbone in order for it to be built upon.

With the concepts of Smart Cities—cities that are interconnected with data collection sensors to supply information that can be used to better manage assets and resources, and the Internet of Things—connecting everyday objects with computing devices that enable them to send and receive data, comes the challenge of producing enough volume to satisfy demand, as well as the task of creating robust parts that will be able to handle the challenges that come along with connecting an entire city on one network. MACOM is committed to developing products that can be used in conjunction with each other to enable cohesive systems. For example, Silicon Photonics is positioned to be the most scalable solution for optical interconnects, delivering the lowest cost per bit for 100G and 400G, a key solution to the challenge that comes with deploying in remote areas of networks where replacing malfunctioning parts can be difficult and costly.

As technology continues to evolve, to satiate demanding higher speeds, an innovative, cost-effective and cohesive offering of components must be developed to enable next-generation connections. Wellbrock and Rajgarhia explore some of these exciting developments, and with some of the brightest minds in the industry working together, the full potential of 5G will soon be realized.

MACOM in conversation with Verizon


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Today’s RF Semiconductor Landscape is Changing – Why?   Aug. 14, 2018

rf landscape blog small.jpg (688429268)Today’s semiconductor industry is undergoing rampant changes, primarily led by shifting end-market requirements and major consolidations. The industry of decades ago, comprised of individual RF companies playing in chiefly the same markets, has been replaced by a new landscape—one decorated with new markets and major mergers and acquisitions of Silicon Valley companies with legacy chipmakers. So what exactly is driving this changing landscape?

What’s Driving the Change?

The changing landscape of the semiconductor industry is fundamentally driven by two requirements: the desire for ubiquitous sensing and demand for connectivity. People want efficient communication and safety, and they want it on a global scale – with each other, in their homes, at work, around the world. The market is no longer simply saturated with demand for cellular handsets; handheld devices have evolved from the days of simple pagers to essentially portable computers in the form of smartphones and smart devices. People now expect unlimited data, instant streaming, flawless connectivity and monitoring from their phones to their cars to their homes, drones delivering groceries, control of their household appliances and more. As these demands open the door to new large volume markets, companies are sprinting to be among the first to service them and obtain market share.

Evolving technology is another key factor driving change. To benefit these new high-volume, consumer applications, companies are shifting from traditional Gallium Arsenide (GaAs) solutions to silicon-based solutions offering more integration, superior technical performance, scalability and affordability supporting high volume production. RF components servicing smaller, standalone markets are moving from GaAs to Gallium Nitride (GaN), offering higher performance and reliability.

To accommodate these new requirements and evolving technology, mergers and acquisitions have abounded across the industry as companies look to enter new serviceable markets, or acquire those already playing in them, to offer more complete solutions to their target markets. As a result, manufacturing and technical experience are combining under one roof to service these new, large volume markets.

There have been plenty of consolidations over the decades, including notable historic ones such as Siemens and Infineon to Intel, but with today’s emerging markets and accelerating demands, consolidation efforts seem to be proliferating: RFMD and Triquint to Qorvo, Microsemi to Microchip, Avago and Broadcom  and recent efforts such as Broadcom’s bid for Qualcomm and Qualcomm’s offer to NXP. Further, many historically standalone and general purpose RF companies that broadly address the market have narrowed their focus to largely consumerist high-volume markets, where the cost of highly integrated semiconductor content becomes affordable.

What’s the Result?

The evolution of technology and new serviceable markets has been exciting, yet as companies shift their focus to these high-volume, consumer-focused markets, the high-performance RF market is becoming an afterthought for many. A void is being created—one that MACOM continues to play in and maximize.

Lower volume markets such as Aerospace and Defense, Test and Measurement and Industrial, Scientific and Medical (ISM), where product life cycles span years and longevity/surety of supply is essential, are facing potential cracks as vendors retreat from these markets. The good news is, MACOM remains committed to servicing these changes and serving customers with our broad and innovative RF portfolio, because RF Matters Here.

MACOM’s 65-year legacy of innovation is driving toward the industry’s broadest portfolio of MMICs, diodes and transistors for the entire RF signal chain, meeting the performance requirements to enable next-generation applications, aided by our extensive expertise in switching, GaN-on-Silicon and Coherent Beamforming technologies. MACOM is dedicated to delivering true competitive advantage with our breakthrough semiconductor technologies, broad product portfolio, surety of supply and applications expertise.

To learn more about our solutions, visit www.macom.com/products or utilize our cross-reference tool to find an alternative or replacement part for your RF application.

 

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Designing with PIN Diodes: Discrete, HMIC or AlGaAs?   Jul. 10, 2018

discrete small blog.jpg (903548438)At first glance, implementing a solid-state RF or microwave switch does not seem to be a daunting task: identify and evaluate an appropriate integrated circuit (IC) switch and if none exists, select PIN diodes to include in a discrete, custom design. Millimeterwave RF switches seem to be a bit more challenging, due to the high frequency of operation.

As one investigates the products that are available for this task, their diversity can be overwhelming. Silicon discrete PIN diodes? MACOM’s silicon Heterolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit (HMICTM) PIN diode integrated circuits? Gallium arsenide (GaAs) discrete PIN diodes? Aluminum gallium arsenide (AlGaAs) ICs? To compound matters, there are several viable circuit topologies, such as series-diodes-only, series-shunt diodes, shunt-diodes-only and more. How does a designer determine how to proceed?

 

 

Shunt PIN Diode SPDT

High Isolation Generic PIN SPDT

 
 
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macom product.pngThe Discrete Design vs. Integrated Circuits

It is generally easier to implement an integrated-circuit switch into a system than to design a discrete switch circuit. The IC switch designer is a specialist who chooses the optimal diode characteristics and switch topology to meet the switch’s required performance specifications. The IC switch user need only select the best IC and then design the appropriate control-signal bias decoupling networks. Some products, including MACOM’s IC switches, even include the bias decoupling networks.

Discrete diode switch designs can be optimized for specialized performance requirements for which an IC switch may not exist, such as insertion loss, isolation, power handling and switching time.

 

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The HMICTM Switch Process

MACOM’s HMIC technology joins glass and silicon into a single monolithic structure. The HMIC process uses automated batch process fabrication and testing technologies in order to produce diode structures, resistive and reactive lumped elements, all of which can be produced with small size and low loss for high performance microwave integrative circuits. Applied at the wafer level, this aims to substantially reduce the size, cost and performance limitations of the device, while also significantly improve the repeatability of conventional diode, active, passive, hybrid and chip-and-wire microwave circuits.

Due to characteristics of the HMIC wafer process, all of the PIN diodes in a HMIC switch design must have the same I layer thickness. HMIC switches can only include silicon PIN diodes, for which the upper frequency bound of operation is approximately 30 GHz.

 

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The AlGaAs Switch Process

MACOM’s proprietary AlGaAs technology offers notable benefits, including ultra-broad bandwidth capability in the millimeter wave bands, low insertion loss, low bias current consumption, compact die sizes, BCB scratch protection and the availability of integrated bias networks.

In MACOM’s proprietary AlGaAs PIN diode technology, the anode layer of the diode is doped with a carefully-controlled concentration of aluminum. This can produce a larger band gap at the interface of the P and the I layers, which ultimately can produce a PIN diode with lower series resistance than an otherwise-identical GaAs PIN diode structure (see: Designing with Diodes: Why Choose AlGaAs?). The expected result is improved performance at millimeter wave frequencies up to and higher than 100 GHz.

 

Making the Best Decision

The approach a designer chooses to follow to implement a PIN diode switch function is influenced by many factors: the frequency and bandwidth of operation, power handling requirements, switching time requirements, maximum acceptable insertion loss, minimum required isolation and, not least, the circuit designer’s level of knowledge and experience with switch design. MACOM offers HMIC integrated circuit switches from single pole two throw to single pole four throw, AlGaAs integrated switches from single pole single throw to single pole eight throw and among the industry’s widest variety of discrete silicon, GaAs and AlGaAs PIN diodes.

RF Matters here at MACOM, and our industry leading applications engineering team is ready to help you succeed!


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