Development of the technology, through the Microscale Power Conversion program, aims for RF power amplifiers incorporating supply modulation and control through power switch technology.
The contract from DARPA is for three years and is worth $8.9 million.
"With more innovative RF power amplifier designs, we can produce much more efficient RF transmitters without increasing their size," said Pat Antkowiak, vice president and general manager of Northrop Grumman's Advanced Concepts and Technologies Division.
"This technique can open the door to creating more powerful electronic systems for a wide variety of applications."
Northrop said it will conduct research on high-efficiency transmitters with gallium nitride Class E power amplifiers in conjunction with RF wideband contour modulation and sub-banded switching supply modulation.
"The key to this research is to broaden the RF power amplifier's supply modulation bandwidth up to 500 MHz with composite efficiency of no less than 75 percent by employing the contour modulation to maintain efficiency performance of the amplifier," Northrop said.
Contour modulation is a method in which a phase-modulated signal waveform and amplifier output impedance work together to maintain higher efficiency over a sizable output power back-off.
Northrop said its subcontractors on the project are the University of California at Los Angeles and TriQuint Semiconductor.