Electronics Technology

A brief history of HBTs

24 November 2021 Electronics Technology

In 1947 the engineers at Bell Labs were tasked with developing a transistor. This development heralded the beginning of the semiconductor industry which changed the world forever. Transistors would have profound impacts on the rapid evolution of technologies from wireless communications to computing and ultimately shape the landscape of the information age.

The first transistors were homojunction components using germanium. This was soon replaced by silicon. Gradual performance improvements, especially in the frequency of operation, drove engineers to the development of the heterojunction bipolar transistor (HBT) which uses two or more different semiconductor materials with different bandgaps to enable high-frequency operation. Only in 1977 did the technology become available to manufacture the HBTs.

Following the industry trend toward greater adoption of semiconductor technologies, Mini-Circuits introduced the wideband MAR and MAV series of MMIC amplifiers, which used silicon homojunction technology operating to 2 GHz.

Mini-Circuits then developed the ERA series amplifiers using HBT technology, initially pushing the frequency of operation to 8 GHz and later to 20 GHz. These amplifiers not only increased frequency of operation and provided superior OIP3 (output third-order intercept point) but also enabled even greater ease-of-use. Most HBT amplifiers have wideband matching on the die and therefore require minimal external components. In addition, HBTs provide superior 1/f noise compared to pHEMT devices and are preferred in some applications such as amplifiers and oscillators for this reason.

HBT technology has matured over the years, resulting in highly reliable microwave and millimetre-wave amplifier products with excellent wideband performance up to 20 GHz. The 1/f noise performance of HBTs is comparable to that of silicon transistors and is therefore preferred in critical amplifiers. Mini-Circuits has an extensive portfolio of HBT amplifiers available in various plastic and ceramic packages.

More information on the above history as well as a full technical white paper on the technology is available on the Mini-Circuits website under the ‘Blog’ tab (https://blog.minicircuits.com/). Contact Conical Technologies for more information on any of the Mini-Circuits HBT amplifiers or any of the company’s other products. Conical Technologies has been the sole distributor of Mini-Circuits parts in South Africa for eight years and not only supplies parts but also assists with application and technical assistance to engineers.


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