Discrete Transistor, IMFET or Power Amplifier IC… Selection by Application

Discrete Transistor, IMFET or Power Amplifier IC… Selection by Application

January 30, 2023

Aerospace & Defense, Radar, SatCom

The global RF power semiconductor market is presently valued at approximately $1.5 billion1. These devices provide the RF amplification for a wide variety of applications, from MRI to broadcast transmitters, radar systems and cellular base stations. Choosing the right component category is critical to developing amplifier systems that meet performance, size, cost and time-to-market requirements, and there are multiple options to consider. This paper covers component construction options avaialble for all RF power amplifier technologies, including but not limited to GaN.

There are three broadly available RF power semiconductor devices−discrete transistors, impedance matched field effect transistors (IMFETs), and MMIC amplifier ICs. Part I of this paper addressed the unique value proposition for each device. Now the discussion turns to applications and use cases.


Part I of this paper, “Discrete RF Power Transistor, IMFET, or Power Amplifier IC… Which is Best?” addressed the different RF power semiconductor device types, their differentiating features and some examples. It is important to also address applications and use cases.

RF power devices are developed via direct collaboration between component manufacturers, distributors and end users. Invariably, these devices are developed for a specific use case(s). As mentioned in the first paper, the component manufacturer analyzes the market to marry the right features and attributes with a potential customer base and expected production volume. These are typically intense deliberations.

Since these products are aimed at specific use cases, it is relevant to investigate the typical applications and look at how RF power semiconductor types (discrete transistor, IMFET, MMIC amplifier) may be suited for these systems. The applications reviewed in this paper include avionics and radar, land mobile radio, electronic warfare, Satcom, wireless infrastructure, and industrial, scientific and medical (ISM).

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