10-03-2015 | | By Paul Whytock
Reduction in the amount of wasted electrical energy consumed globally is recognised as a key environmental objective and power devices that are used in electrical energy conversion and system control applications are frontline products that can either save or waste energy.
There are two major forms of energy loss via power devices; switching loss through inefficiency and conduction loss caused by current loop resistance.
The development of Gallium Nitride (GaN) is now rightly established as a silver bullet that can solve a number of power inefficiencies. Key amongst its operational characteristics is its very fast switching ability and low conduction resistance. The low conduction resistance is achieved because the on-resistance of the power device is inversely proportional to the cube of the electrical breakdown. Coupled with those attributes are high breakdown voltages and the ability to produce smaller devices which in turn offers lower capacitance values.
Two companies that have teamed up to exploit the operational advantages of GaN are Panasonic and Infineon, the latter having recently spent $3billion purchasing US power management company International Rectifier, a pioneer of GaN technology.
The companies will jointly develop GaN devices based on Panasonic’s normally-off GaN on silicon transistor structure integrated into Infineon’s surface-mounted device packages.
As part of the agreement Panasonic has provided Infineon with a license of its normally-off GaN transistor structure. By doing so each company will be able to manufacture high performance GaN devices which means customers will have the advantage of being able to dual-source compatible packaged GaN power switches. This, say the companies, is not available for any other GaN on silicon device.
The companies are launching samples of a 600V 70m? device in a DSO (Dual Small Outline) package at the APEC show in the US.
There is no doubt that GaN on silicon has been receiving significant attention as one of the next compound semiconductor technologies that will enable high power density and therefore a smaller footprint. In general, power devices based on GaN on silicon technology can be used in a range of areas, from high-voltage industrial applications such as power supplies in server farms to low voltage applications such as DC-DC conversion.
According to industry analysts IHS the GaN on silicon related market for power semiconductors is expected to grow with a compound annual growth rate of more than 50%, leading to an expansion of volume from US$15 million in 2014 to US$800 million by 2023.