The power electronics industry promises opportunities aplenty, and ON Semiconductor is ready to capitalize

A $15B market and a fast-consolidating landscape: power electronics is a dynamic market rife with business opportunities. Technical innovations are fuelled by attractive, growing applications like solar energy and electrified vehicles. These opportunities and innovations are elaborated on in the latest “Status of the Power Electronics Industry 2016” report from Yole Développement (Yole), which covers the market’s major trends, technical breakthroughs, and supply chain evolutions.

Yole recently spoke with Vittorio Crisafulli, Principal Application Engineer for the Power Discrete Division at ON Semiconductor, about the company’s plans and expectations for this huge market.


Evolution power electronics revenues Yole Développement


Yole Développement (YD): Could you briefly introduce your company, main applications targeted, and available products?

Vittorio Crisafulli (VC): ON Semiconductor (Nasdaq: ON) is driving energy-efficient innovations and empowering customers to reduce global energy use. The company is a leading supplier of semiconductor-based solutions, offering a comprehensive portfolio of energy-efficient power management, analog, sensors, logic, timing, connectivity, discrete, SoC, and custom devices. The company’s products help engineers solve unique design challenges in automotive, communications, computing, consumer, industrial, medical, aerospace, and defense applications. ON Semiconductor operates a responsive, reliable, world-class supply chain and quality program, a robust compliance and ethics program, and a network of manufacturing facilities, sales offices, and design centers in key markets throughout North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. For more information, visit

YD: Which application(s) do you believe will drive the power electronics industry in the near future?

VC: There are a couple of applications that seem very promising to me. I would say automotive applications are in pole position, especially with the silicon content in automotive increasing every day. EV/HEV applications are also very popular today, and we should not forget about UPS and Solar – they will play a very important role in the future, especially looking towards an “Intelligent Network”. Getting back to the automotive domain, two paths will drive power electronics: traction and on-board power supply in the car, and battery charger stations for EV/HEV on the ground. Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies are eager to use new silicon solutions in the on-board stage. Battery charging stations will also be extremely important, and most solar energy players are moving towards this path. Furthermore, in the Far East there is much ferment and activity aimed at creating the necessary infrastructure for deploying EV and HEV for large-scale usage.

YD: What are the main challenges to overcome in power electronics?

VC: In my view, power density, parasitics, and cost structure at system and semiconductor level are the key challenges. Dies are becoming smaller and smaller, and consequently current density is increasing. Devices are becoming faster (i.e. SiC MOSFET, high-frequency IGBT, etc.), which creates a very challenging environment. Last but not least is pricing: semiconductor and end-user applications expect a more efficient device/system at a lower price. This will unavoidably lead to more industry consolidation (like we are currently experiencing).

YD: Do you think high temperature will be widespread in this field? What will the junction temperature be inside a power module by 2020?

VC: This is a very good point and definitely a tough question. There is general excitement about the WBG junction, which can withstand higher temperatures compared to classic silicon devices. For example, SiC for its intrinsic property can operate above 200°C, while the latest IGBT technologies can only operate up to 175°C. Of course, operating at a higher temperature is an advantage, since it allows the designer to enhance the device’s performance and increase its reliability. The main show-stopper today is the mechanical structure (bonding wires and soldering process). Aside from a couple of speculative SiC device datasheets, there is still no silicon supplier willing to risk guaranteeing the device above 175°C. That said, I think that junction temperature operation will definitely increase, but in the next five years it is unlikely to differ much from current levels.


Tree mockup ON Semiconductor Courtesy of ON Semiconductor


YD: How do you see the integration of wide bandgap (WBG) materials? What are the advantages of these technologies, and the remaining obstacles?

VC: The WBG domain is very exciting. Every big semiconductor player is heavily investing in it, and there are generally high expectations for these technologies’ impact. As mentioned earlier, SiC and GaN offer better thermal performance due their intrinsic structures; therefore they can operate at higher temperatures than silicon devices. These technologies also offer better performance at high frequency. But despite these benefits, there is still some reluctance to use these devices. For example, even though SiC diodes have been available for more than 10 years, there are not as many applications using it as you would expect. Of course, there are reasons for this, like price, long-term reliability, and uncertainty/reluctance from the end-customer to think outside the box for the end-application. Price is still quite high compared to standard silicon, and most SiC and GaN developments are in 4” (though some SiC suppliers recently moved into 6”). Also, these devices are not a “second source” for a standard silicon device. This means you cannot plug and play, otherwise the performance advantage won’t be enough to justify WBG’s premium price. Lastly, I thinks designers must start pushing the envelope. They need to be creative and find the right topology/frequency of operation in order to reduce the device cost and at the same time achieve higher efficiencies. Once this approach is accepted, I believe cost will decrease as consumption increases, and the semiconductor industry could then leverage economies of scale.

YD: With the acquisition of International Rectifier, Infineon is now a giant in the power electronics landscape. But on the other hand, ON Semiconductor’s acquisition of Fairchild will create a huge group. How do you plan to compete with Infineon?

VC: We cannot comment on pending acquisitions.

YD: The Chinese power electronics market is huge, considering that around one IGBT in three is dedicated to China. How do you see this market evolving? Is it a major interest for ON Semiconductor?

VC: China is a market that ON Semiconductor is strongly focused on, just as other big players are. We are investing a lot, but the way we are investing is changing a bit. Partly as a consequence of the economic slowdown which started last year, but also because the big Chinese customers are becoming more structured and knowledgeable. Furthermore, the Chinese government is funneling lots of cash into infrastructure projects (i.e. EV charger, HVDC, renewable etc.). Of course, we are trying to serve this market as best as we can, without forgetting of course the US and European markets, which are still very strong candidates for power electronics designs.



Vittorio Crisafulli ONSemi Vittorio Crisafulli joined ON Semiconductor in 2013 and works in Munich, Germany as Principal Application Engineer for the Power Discrete Division. He has more than 10 years’ experience working in the semiconductor sector and has held several positions, ranging from R&D to marketing. He currently supports the main IGBT customers in his region, as well as IGBT’s product definition. Vittorio has a Ph.D. in Energy from the Scuola Superiore at the University of Catania, holds four patents, and has authored or co-authored more than 20 international technical publications.


Sources:  ON Semiconductor –   Yole Développement



Status Power Electronics Industry 2016

Status of the Power Electronics Industry 2016

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