GF Gets New Fed Funding to Advance GaN Chip Production

Semiconductor manufacturer GlobalFoundries (GF) announced the award of US$30 million in federal funding to advance the development and production of next-generation gallium nitride (GaN) on silicon semiconductors. Particularly, the production will take place at GF’s facility in Essex Junction, Vermont.

With their unique ability to handle significant heat and power levels, GaN semiconductors can enable game-changing performance and efficiency in applications including 5G and 6G smartphones, RF wireless infrastructure, and electric vehicles. In addition, it can also figure in power grids, solar energy, and other technologies.

Global Leader in GaN Chip Manufacturing

The company announced the federal funding at GF’s Fab event. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy attended the event, along with GF President and CEO Dr. Thomas Caulfield; GF Vice President and Vermont Fab General Manager Ken McAvey; Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation President Frank Cioffi; and other GF Fab team members guests.

To illustrate, the US$30 million federal funding will enable GF to purchase tools and extend development and implementation of 200mm GaN wafer manufacturing. Sen. Leahy secured the funding as an appropriation in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2022.

The incorporation of scaled GaN manufacturing into the Fab’s capabilities furthers the facility’s longstanding global leadership in RF semiconductor technology, and positions GF for leadership in making chips for high-power applications including electric vehicles, industrial motors, and energy applications.

Dr. Caulfield said, “On behalf of the entire GF team, I thank Senator Leahy for his steadfast support of GF throughout his many years in office. As seen with today’s announcement, he has been a champion of putting this facility on the global forefront of semiconductor manufacturing.”

In addition, Dr. Caufield said the new federal funding, and the potential for further support in the 2023 federal budget, will position GF as a global leader in GaN chip manufacturing.

“Chips used all around the world are made right here in Essex Junction by this dedicated workforce,” said Senator Leahy. “I am extremely proud of that, and it’s something all Vermonters and Americans can take pride in. This funding is an investment in U.S. leadership in improved technology for chips that connect everything around us and power our handheld devices—with GlobalFoundries and Vermonters leading the way.”

Advanced ICs for Defense

The Defense Microelectronics Activity via the Trusted Access Program Office (TAPO) of the U.S. Department of Defense entered this Other Transaction Agreement (OTA). TAPO’s primary mission is to procure advanced semiconductors for the Departments most critical and sensitive weapons systems platforms.

Furthermore, TAPO has been supporting dual use (both civilian and military applications) GaN on silicon development efforts since 2019 as GaN provides a stable semiconductor suitable in high power, high frequency devices the DoD needs to maintain technology advantage for the United States. This current development phase plans to leverage previous TAPO successes and continue maturing this dual use technology.

This US$30 million agreement is the latest federal investment to support GaN at GF’s Vermont Fab. In fiscal years 2020 and 2021, Sen. Leahy secured a total of US$10 million for research and development related to advancing GaN technology at the facility, paving the way for this new award.

GF’s facility in Essex Junction, Vermont, near Burlington, was among the first major semiconductor manufacturing sites in the United States. Today, nearly 2,000 GF employees work at the site, with a manufacturing capacity of more than 600,000 wafers per year.

Built on GF’s differentiated technologies, these GF-made chips suit smartphones, automobiles, and communications infrastructure applications around the world. As a Trusted Foundry, the Fab manufactures secure chips in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, for use in some of the nation’s most sensitive aerospace and defense systems.