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Silicon hits its limit, gallium nitride to take over

Posted: 22 Apr 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Transphorm  ON Semiconductor  gallium nitride  silicon  power electronics 

Though the expense involved in fabrication has previously been a hindrance, a number of technological and commercial factors are now bringing GaN further and further into favour. The GaN production procedure is being improved all the time, enabling yield figures to be raised. It is predicted that once migration to GaN within the power electronics sector begins then the whole thing is destined to snowball, just like it did for silicon back in the late 1960s. Economies of scale will lower the associated price tag of GaN power products, this will open up new opportunities, thus increasing demand and subsequently dragging unit costs down still further.

Since Si fabrication is already moving, with increasing frequency, on to 300mm wafers, GaN production will be able to take advantage of the manufacturing capacity that has been freed up, using the manufacturing sites and equipment that would otherwise be left redundant. As a result, GaN production can exploit existing infrastructure that has already been paid off, rather than warranting completely new investment in capital equipment and facilities.

GaN to enable next-gen power budgets

GaN will make a major contribution to next generation power system design in a variety of different markets, including consumer electronics, data communications and automotive. Server racks will be able to incorporate greater processing capacity as less board real estate will be needed for thermal management mechanisms to accompany the power electronics. Items of portable electronics will be more compact, while at the same time having more expansive battery lives. Electronics systems will be able to cope much better with the high voltages and elevated temperatures found in automotive environments. The semiconductor manufacturers that are allocating engineering resources to this process technology, and entering into mutually beneficial technology partnerships, will be the ones that are best able to respond to the GaN migration when it occurs.

ON Semiconductor is collaborating with Transphorm in order to develop a new breed of GaN-based power solutions that will fully address future power system demands.

- Tim Kaske
  ON Semiconductor

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