Transparency Market Research states that the global GaN semiconductor devices market will expand at a high 17.0 percent CAGR over the period between 2016 and 2024. With such exponential growth, the market, which had a valuation of US$870.9 million in 2015, is projected to rise to US$3,438.4 million by 2024. Of the key end-use industries utilizing GaN semiconductors, the aerospace and defence sector dominates, accounting for a share of over 42 percent of the global market in 2015.
The GaN semiconductors devices market is primarily being driven by factors such as advancement in technology coupled with the expansion in the application areas for GaN based devices. There has been a rapid advancement in the GaN technology as a result of which various companies are coming up with new innovative products that are cost-effective and have better design and performance. Moreover, in order to address the growing demand for high power and high temperature applications there has been an increase in the usage of GaN semiconductor devices, according to report by ReportLinker.
GaN based components are commonly used in blue and white LEDs. In power electronics applications, GaN diodes and transistors, in particular, have received interest, for example in frequency converters or electric cars. It is believed that in radio applications, 5G network base stations will use GaN based power amplifiers in the future. In electronics applications, a GaN transistor offers low resistance and enables high frequencies and power densities.
The increased usage of GaN semiconductor devices in the defense sector has also emerged as a key driver of the global GaN semiconductor devices market. The continuous rise in defense budgets of developing and developed countries as well as the demand for inclusion of the technologically most advanced products in the arsenal of national and international armies will propel the global GaN semiconductor devices market in the near future, says TMR.
The global market for gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor devices is largely consolidated, with the top four companies commanding a share of over 65 percent of the overall market in 2015, states Transparency Market Research (TMR) in a new report. The dominant company among these four top vendors, Efficient Power Conversion Corporation, accounted for a 19.2 percent share of the global market in the said year. The other three topmost companies of the global market, which collectively enjoyed a considerably large share in the overall global market in the said year, are NXP Semiconductors N.V., GaN Systems, and Cree. Other companies are Triquint/RF Micro Devices, Sumitomo, RFHIC, MACOM/Nitronex, Mitsubishi, and Microsemi have GaN device portfolios covering a wide range of application.
Compared to Silicon (Si) and Gallium Arsenide (GaAs), gallium nitride is a robust technology and possesses better performance characteristics. GaN semiconductor devices offer high breakdown voltages, saturation velocity, high electron mobility and high thermal conductivity among others. This has enabled the implementation of GaN on a wide basis high frequency RF devices and LEDs. These factors in combination are expected to positively impact the growth of the GaN semiconductor devices globally.
These properties, make GaN devices well suited for high power, high frequency and wide bandwidth applications in extreme environments. GaN transistors can operate at higher temperatures, and higher current densities than their SiC counterparts. The switching speed of a GaN power transistor may reach an unbelievable 100V/ns.
The advantages of GaN-based devices stems largely from the attractive intrinsic physical properties of the material. The material exhibits wide bandgap, high breakdown voltage, extremely high power density and high gain at microwave frequencies. The raw materials for GaN are available in large quantities. Nitrogen can be taken from the air, and gallium is a waste product in metal working.
Asia Pacific to Rise to Fore by End of Forecast Period
The opportunity in the global GaN semiconductor devices market was pegged at US$870.9 mn in 2015 and is poised to reach US$3,483.4 bn by 2024, expanding at a significant CAGR of 17.0% from 2016 to 2024. On the basis of wafer size, the 4 inch segment will continue to be at the forefront of growth until 2024, accounting for 53.95% of the overall market revenue. The 8 inch segment is expected to progress at a phenomenal CAGR of 33.6% during the forecast period. The rising demand for 8 inch based GaN semiconductor devices can be attributed to their excellent switching characteristics and small parasitic capacitance, says Transparency Market Research (TMR).
North America was the leading revenue contributor in 2015. However, Asia Pacific is estimated to surpass the region by the end of the review period. China, India, Korea, and Japan will be sights of high growth rate in the region. The flourishing growth of the electronics sector is one of the primary factors driving the growth of the region. Moreover, the lower production and labor costs in the region are attracting international companies to set up their production facilities, which in turn is propelling the growth of the region. The valuation of the regional market is anticipated to rise to more than US$1 bn by the end of 2024.
Challenges being overcome
The major challenges to more widespread GaN adoption have been reliability and price. Many of the early reliability challenges of GaN have been solved and GaN today demonstrates, via RF life test, a mean time to failure (MTTF) of greater than 1 million hours at a junction temperature above 200°C.
However in applications below 3.5GHz, GaN-on-SiC is not cost-effective enough versus Si-LDMOS. The Low volumes, the cost of the SiC wafers, coupled with wafer diameters in the 2″ – 4″ range all contribute to GaN devices being many times more expensive than competitive technologies like GaAs and LDMOS.
The various costs involved in the production of GaN devices include cost of substrate, fabrication, packaging, support electronics and development. Thus, high cost is one of the major challenges in the commercialization of GaN based devices. Though producing GaN in large volumes can help overcome these issues, currently, there is no widespread adopted method for growing GaN in bulk due to high operating pressures and temperatures, low material quality and limited scalability.
In 2013, RFMD introduced the first 6-inch GaN-on-SiC wafers for RF power transistors and M/A-COM technology introduced a line of GaN devices in plastic packaging. Companies like TriQuint, Cree and UMS continue to expand their GaN product and process portfolios. Developments like these and ongoing process improvements will continue to reduce the cost of GaN devices.
A SOI wafer is a suitable substrate for gallium nitride crystals
GaN based components are becoming more common in power electronics and radio applications. The performance of GaN based devices can be improved by using a SOI wafer as the substrate’, says Academy Research Fellow Sami Suihkonen.
In cooperation with Okmetic Oy and the Polish ITME, researchers at Aalto University have studied the application of SOI (Silicon On Insulator) wafers, which are used as a platform for manufacturing different microelectronics components, as a substrate for producing gallium nitride crystals. The researchers compared the characteristics of gallium nitride (GaN) layers grown on SOI wafers to those grown on silicon substrates more commonly used for the process.
“We used a standardised manufacturing process for comparing the wafer characteristics. GaN growth on SOI wafers produced a higher crystalline quality layer than on silicon wafers. In addition, the insulating layer in the SOI wafer improves breakdown characteristics, enabling the use of clearly higher voltages in power electronics. Similarly, in high frequency applications, the losses and crosstalk can be reduced,” explains Jori Lemettinen, a doctoral candidate from the Department of Electronics and Nanoengineering.
Growth of GaN on a silicon substrate is challenging. GaN layers and devices can be grown on substrate material using metalorganic vapor phase epitaxy (MOVPE). When using silicon as a substrate the grown compound semiconductor materials have different coefficients of thermal expansion and lattice constants than a silicon wafer. These differences in their characteristics limit the crystalline quality that can be achieved and the maximum possible thickness of the produced layer.
‘The research showed that the layered structure of an SOI wafer can act as a compliant substrate during gallium nitride layer growth and thus reduce defects and strain in the grown layers,” Lemettinen notes.
IQE’s GaN on SiC achieves breakthrough power and frequency results for Satellite Communications and 5G Applications
High frequency microwave capabilities of up to 40GHz (also known as Ka-band) are essential for satellite communications and will become increasingly important for next generation (5G) wireless communications. However, until now, designers have faced compromises between frequency and power.
The breakthrough results are published in IEEE Electron Device Letters, Vol 36, No. 10, October 2015 in an article by Fitch et al. entitled: Implementation of High-Power-Density X-Band AlGaN/GaN High Electron Mobility Transistors in a Millimeter-Wave Monolithic Microwave Integrated Circuit Process.
The authors demonstrated 7.7 W/mm at 35 GHz and VDS = 30 V on a standard 4 × 65-μm T-gated FET and then 12.5 W/mm at 10 GHz and VDS = 60 V on a 4 × 75-μm T-gated FET by adding a field plate. These are the highest reported power densities achieved simultaneously at X-band and Ka-band in a single wideband GaN MMIC process.
Freescale Introduces Breakthrough Ultra-Wideband RF Power GaN Transistors in Advanced Plastic Packages
Freescale Semiconductor, the global leader in radio frequency (RF) power transistors, has introduced two ultra-wideband RF power gallium nitride (GaN) transistors in new advanced plastic packages.
“We have innovated the capability to metalurgically bond our GaN-on-SiC chips to copper flanges, and over-mold them to enable unprecedented thermal performance,” said Mali Mahalingam, Freescale Fellow and head of RF package development. “In addition, this new package platform supports complex internal matching schemes that enable superior broadband performance.”
“The industry-leading bandwidth of these two products will enable our customers to replace two or even three separate RF PA’s with a single RF lineup, vastly reducing system cost,” said Paul Hart, senior vice president and general manager of Freescale’s RF business. “In addition, the devices’ ultra-low thermal resistance will allow customers to reduce the cost of their cooling systems, or run at full CW-rated power to much higher case temperatures.”