Saab Technology

SAAB: Gallium Nitride – a game-changing semi-conductive material

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This spring, Saab was lauded for being the first in its industry to bring Gallium Nitride –a game-changing semi-conductive material – to market. In turn, the Saab Innovation Prize goes to the engineers who made it happen.

Hot on the heels of Saab winning Aviation Week’s Innovation Laureate Award for GaN, Swedish- based employees Niklas Billström, Johan Carlert and Joakim Nilsson in turn scoop this year’s Saab Innovation Prize for their work with the material. The prize, which was collected by Niklas and Johan, following the recent passing of Joakim, recognises the trios innovative work with a material which is leading to a new generation of radars and electronic warfare systems.

 Niklas Billström, Johan Carlert and Joakim Nilsson
SAAB AB – Niklas Billström, Johan Carlert and Joakim Nilsson

“Today’s semi-conductive material has reached its limits and GaN allows us to do a lot more. As a conductor it withstands higher temperatures, provides better bandwidth and offers higher output power,” says Johan.

“It translates to better performance. In concrete terms, it means wattage goes up, component sizes go down and radar system ranges, for example, are extended. This is exactly what we’re doing with our Giraffefamily of radars,” adds Niklas.

On airborne platforms, like Gripen, GaN enables a completely new generation of integrated AESA sensors.“Small in size and weight, and offering high performance – GaN is particularly important in fighters where size, weight and power management are highly constrained,” notes Niklas.

“Collaboration has been important in getting GaN going at Saab, and we’ve successfully built a support ecosystem with academia, EU projects and Sweden’s defence procurement agency, FMV. Timing was also on our side, with the revamp of the Giraffe radar family,” adds Niklas.

“Perhaps most critically, we’ve been rewarded both with the trust and funding internally to be early adopters of the technology – it’s brave as it is not cheap, but it will pay off,” says Johan.

Whilst Saab is the first to bring GaN to its market, it is expected to be adopted up by a raft of industries and products.