Introduction to GaN (Gallium Nitride) Based Devices

Power MOFSETs started appearing in 1976 as an alternative to bipolar transistors. Thus, switching power became way easier. GaN-on-Silicon technology emerged as a cost-effective alternative to the old traditional ways of power generation through MOSFETs and bipolar transistors. The demand for GaN-on-Silicon technology is constantly increasing due to the surge in demand for cost-effective power supply.

R&D Activities in GaN Technology

Recently, STMicroelectronics and Leti have jointly agreed to industrialize the GaN-on-Silicon technology for power switching devices. This will enable ST to address high efficiency and high power applications, including automotive onboard chargers for hybrid and electric vehicles, wireless charging, as well as servers. Transphorm targets to manufacture high voltage GaN-on-Silicon power devices with better power efficiency, which can be used in power supplies, inverters for solar panels, electric vehicles, and other such applications.

Applications of GaN-on-Silicon Technology

GaN-on-Silicon technology has a wide range of applications in defense, telecommunication, electronics, IT, and many other fields. 

  • Telecommunication: Large TV screens or smaller full color panels in trains and buses can be potentially made of GaN. 
  • Electronics: LEDs consume less power and are cost effective. Nitride based semiconductors can be mixed with phosphor convertors to produce white light. Gallium nitride-based lasers, which work at room temperature have quite long-lasting lifetimes.
  • IT industry: CD, DVD, and opto-magnetic memories have a potential scope for GaN.
  • Aerospace: GaN materials, when used as microwave amplifiers in wireless communication systems show greater transmitting power supply and efficiency. This indicates that few geostationary satellites can yield power equal to many low-earth satellites together.

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Challenges for GaN-on-Silicon Technology

  • GaN is in headlines due to its outstanding features. It has surpassed other technologies such as GaAs and Si in terms of reliability and performance. Despite being such a promising future for semiconductor devices, it still has to face certain challenges, as mentioned below, to be accepted on a larger scale.
  • It cannot replace the current devices completely, instead it can complement them and achieve excellence in applications by providing high frequency, high power, switched-mode power supply. 
  • Since, this is a newly invented technology, not all power designers are familiar with the usage of GaN.
  • GaN devices for sure have extravagant features, however, the major challenge is that the technology is still in the development stage.

Some Key Players

Companies such as Efficient Power Conversion Corporation, Wolfspeed, GaN Systems, Inc., Toshiba Corporation, N X P Semiconductors N.V., Transphorm Inc., Infineon Technologies AG, Qorvo Corporation, and others are making significant contributions in the field of GaN-based devices. 

One of the most important key players in the technology is Cree Inc., which has currently declared that it has signed a multi-year silicon carbide wafer supply agreement with STMicroelectronics. Another important player in the field, NexGen, plans to produce GaN FETs using AIXTRON MOCVD technology.

With such promising features, GaN-on-Silicon technology has a larger scope for use in a wide range of applications. Presently, the technology is still in its infancy and lots of R&D is being carried out towards the advancement of this technology.

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