What Is GaN Technology and Its Place in Power Electronics by@andreysolovev

What Is GaN Technology and Its Place in Power Electronics

Gallium Nitride semiconductor technology has high conductivity because of the high mobility of electrons in a GaN crystal. The wider bandgap allows GaN technology to provide higher power density, operate at higher voltages and temperatures, reduce switching losses, and, what is more, it is cheaper to manufacture. GaN semiconductor devices market is predicted to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 24.4% from 2022 to 2030. The market is growing since there is a surge in demand for power electronics solutions with low power consumption and better energy efficiency.
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Andrey Solovev

Co-founder and CTO at Integra Sources PhD in Physics and Mathematics

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Power electronics is a basis for systems, devices, and gadgets applicable for a wide range of industries: from consumer electronics to complex automotive solutions. Environmental concerns, trends for electrification of sectors and our day-to-day life, and widening of devices' functionality lead to pervasive usage of power electronics solutions. 

Besides, all these tendencies evoke more strict requirements for the functionality and security of power electronics. It’s no wonder that power electronics have been enjoying drastic enhancement in the last 10 years. 

Along with that, there is an onrush of the technologies used for power electronics components development and we are going to talk about the most popular one - Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology.

What is Gallium Nitride?

Gallium Nitride, or just GaN, is a type of wide bandgap semiconductor material used for creating the basic power electronics components. They are:

  • Resistors;
  • Capacitors;
  • Inductors;
  • Transistors: MOSFETs (Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor), IGBT (Gate Bipolar Transistor);
  • Thyristors;
  • Diodes.

These main elements provide vital functionality for a power electronics system since they control electricity flow, store energy in magnetic and electric fields, and switch electric currents. So, conductivity is of great importance for any power electronics device.

Gallium Nitride semiconductor technology has high conductivity because of the high mobility of electrons in a GaN crystal. Actually, GaN is not the only material that is used for creating power electronics components. GaN is compared to Silicon (Si) and Silicon Carbide (SiC) technologies. They also provide high electrons mobility and are highly conductive as well. 

However, Gallium Nitride has a wider bandgap, which is 3.4 eV, while SiC has a 3.26 eV bandgap and Si has 1.12 eV. The wider bandgap allows GaN technology to provide higher power density, operate at higher voltages and temperatures, reduce switching losses, and, what is more, it is cheaper to manufacture.

The difference in bandgaps of Gallium Nitride, Silicon Carbide, and Silicon

As a result, using GaN-based components you can create highly secure and cost-effective power electronics solutions. Let’s explore where GaN technology is put to good effect and what its prospects are.

The GaN Technology Prospects

Gallium Nitride semiconductor devices gain in popularity. The market is growing since there is a surge in demand for power electronics solutions with low power consumption and better energy efficiency.

This demand is yielded by the unrelenting growth of innovative electronics development. Electronics devices and systems are becoming smarter and more comfortable to use for the end-users. More functionality makes a device consume more energy.

According to the research conducted by Grand New Research company, the GaN semiconductor devices market is predicted to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 24.4% from 2022 to 2030 to reach USD 12.47 billion by 2030.

Nowadays, the usage of GaN technology is widespread among the industries and segments based on power electronics. 

Thus, GaN material is more commonly used for building RF power transistors, FETs (Field effect transistors), and IGBT (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors). Another segment where GaN technology dominates is the power IC (Integrated Circuit) segment. 

The usage of GaN material opens the way to creating wireless telecommunication modules with new, fresh functionalities and features. For example, Qorvo, Inc. developed QPF4005 which is a 5G wireless module duel-channel IC. This 5G module is intended to be used for base stations, terminals, and point-to-point data transmission. 

GaN material enables the devices to consume less energy and operate for a longer period of time. In so doing, this technology allows for the implementation of reliable and advanced products for such industries as automotive (electric vehicles), consumer electronics, healthcare, industrial, and communication technology.

The industries where GaN technology gains in popularity

It’s time to find out what manufacturers use GaN technology for creating next-generation power electronics components.

What Suppliers Use GaN technology? A Quick Survey

Nowadays, we can see a quest for improvements in the power electronics design area, and the suppliers of electronics components launch new products to satisfy this demand. Here are three famous manufacturers that provide GaN-based semiconductor components development:

  • STMicroelectronics produces a wide range of GaN-based power electronics units including drivers, high-voltage converters, transistors, and integrated smart GaNs. The STMicroelectronics GaN products can be used for building custom wearables, wireless chargers, electric vehicle chargers, DC-DC converters, and automotive motor control solutions.
  • Infineon specializes in building components and solutions for automotive and industrial sectors and offers high-quality power electronics components tailored to this field. They produce their own unique Infineon’s CoolGaN™ transistors with a faster switching speed.
  • NXP® Semiconductors offers power GaN transistors, and GaN-based RF solutions for a wide range of applications: automotive, industrial, mobile, smart home, and smart city.

Now, let’s see what service companies use GaN-based products for building custom power electronics.

Service Companies for GaN-based Power Electronics Development

There are plenty of off-the-shelf power electronics products on the market. However, they sometimes don’t match specific needs and requirements for size, functionality, and other parameters. 

In this case, you can find a team of professionals to develop a custom power electronics solution for you and your business.

As we learned, you can find GaN-based components that perfectly fit specific industries and that you can use for creating your product. Now, let’s take a look at several companies that use the components made of GaN to create custom power electronics from scratch.

  • Integra Sources: https://www.integrasources.com/. This team is highly experienced with GaN products from STMicroelectronics, Infineon, and NXP® Semiconductors. Besides, the Integra team is an official partner of STMicroelectronics and have the access to the DevKits and all the necessary documentation.

The company provides custom power electronics design for EV charging stations, battery management systems, power converters, lighting control systems, and motor controllers.

  • Converdan: https://www.converdan.com/. The company creates ready-to-go power electronics solutions and prove custom design services using GaN-based components as well. They create power converters, battery chargers, and control modules.

Besides, they develop a wide range of services in custom power electronics design: E-mobility power solutions, solar inverters, energy storage, motor drives and converters for HVAC, and power supplies.

  • Smart Power Solutions: https://www.smartpowersolutions.com/. This team can take your product on a full-cycle journey of the development process: from R&D to manufacturing. The company builds custom low voltage and high-power electronics.

They use GaN power components from various suppliers to create custom power electronics solutions for a number of applications: smart grid, EV charging, fuel cells, automotive, and traction auxiliaries.

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