GaN application base widens, adoption grows

An article written by Patrick Waurzyniak for Semiconductor Engineering, based on an interview by Ahmed Ben Slimane, PhD, Technology and Market Analyst for Compound Semiconductors and Emerging Substrates and Taha Ayari, PhD, Technology and Market Analyst, both at Yole Développement (Yole).

Gallium nitride (GaN) is beginning to show up across a broad range of power semiconductor applications due to its wide bandgap, enabling fast-charging, very high speeds, and much smaller form factors than silicon-based chips.

Unlike silicon carbide (SiC), another wide-bandgap technology, GaN is a lateral rather than a vertical device. GaN tops out at about 900 volts, which limits its use in many BEV applications. While there are still some overlaps, the demarcation line for where each of those technologies works best is relatively clear — at least for now.

The main applications for GaN over the next five years likely will include consumer products such as power supplies, rapid chargers, which provide higher power density than silicon, as well as some automotive applications. These are large and rapidly expanding markets. Yole Développement (Yole) expects the GaN consumer handset power supply market will top $597 million by 2026, with a 72% CAGR between 2020 and 2026.

“In the EV/HEV market, there are significant global incentives for the electrification of cars,” said Ahmed Ben Slimane, technology and market analyst for compound semiconductors and emerging substrates at Yole. “There is a growing interest in 48V DC/DC conversion in mild hybrid EVs (MHEVs) and on-board chargers (OBCs), where high-switching GaN devices can allow more compact and less bulky systems. In addition, with new regulations on power supply units, GaN technology is expected to penetrate the datacom and telecom power market for systems with less than 3kW.”