As wide bandgap materials start to replace silicon in power electronics, gallium nitride’s foothold in the consumer sector, particularly in China, is set to drive considerable growth in the power device market over the next few years.
A third-generation material still experiencing much innovation and development (the first commercial power device was launched just 10 years ago), GaN has a fascinating outlook in power electronics.
Through its extensive market report, Power GaN, Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group predicts the power GaN device market to be worth $2 billion by 2027, up from $126 million in 2021. With a substantial CAGR of 59% expected, Yole Intelligence’s analysts anticipates many mergers & acquisitions, heavy investment, in addition to unique partnerships as GaN penetrates applications such as automotive and telecom/datacom.
Yole Group and its entities, Yole Intelligence and Yole SystemPlus has been analysing the gallium nitride (GaN) technologies and markets for more than 10 years with a significant collection of analyses including Power GaN, Status of the Compound Semiconductor Industry, Power SiC/GaN CS Market Monitor…
Consumer driving GaN, especially in China
The consumer sector has been the main driver of GaN adoption by OEMs until now, thanks to the material’s cost and efficiency benefits, and this is not expected to slow down. Consumer applications are expected to grow from $79.6 million in 2021 to $964.7 million in 2027 in the power GaN market, Yole Intelligence forecasts, at a 52% CAGR. The consumer sector will represent 48% of the overall industry in 2027.
Fast charging has been the main application propelling this adoption, thanks to the demand for faster, cheaper and more ecological powering of electronics devices.
With GaN, smartphone manufacturers can make chargers with smaller case sizes, and with an improved price over power ratio. Despite the unit price of GaN-based devices being more expensive than silicon, the higher frequency and higher power density values result in a lower dollar per Watt. Comparing Samsung’s silicon- and GaN-based chargers helps to demonstrate this: Samsung’s 45W Si fast charger has a power density of 0.55W/cm3; while its 45W GaN-based charger boasts a 0.76w/cm3 power density with almost 30% smaller footprint. Other comparisons between silicon and GaN products are made in Yole Intelligence’s report.
Chinese OEMs such as Xiaomi, Vivo, Lenovo, OnePlus Technology and Nubia are just a few of the companies mentioned in the report who have released fast chargers in the last two years.
While electronics OEMs in other regions have GaN fast-charging products, such as Apple (USA), and Samsung (Korea), the far higher number of Chinese OEMs, supported by the region’s excellent manufacturing capacity and dedicated supply chain, allows the region to dominate in the power GaN consumer space. The domestic supply chain in China has been able to support high-volume shipments with bottom-up approaches since 2021. The region is one of the largest markets in consumer products, and this demand has driven the development of integrated device manufacturers (IDMs), foundries and packagers/OSATs.
Innoscience and Sanan IC are two important Chinese players within the power GaN ecosystem helping to propel China’s lead. Innoscience is the largest 8-inch IDM focused on GaN technology in the world; while Sanan IC is a compound semiconductor wafer foundry that provides a GaN foundry service for high-efficiency power designs.
Other upcoming applications in the consumer sector include audio devices, such as class D audio amplifiers, which may take a small amount of business in the coming years. However, fast chargers are expected to be the main drivers of the consumer market in the forecasted period.
OEMs consider high wattage chargers
A new trend to target power higher than 75W for smartphone fast chargers could boost the adoption of GaN by smartphone OEMs in the near future. Powers above 75W in most countries require a power factor correction (PFC) circuit, which requires a greater amount of GaN content used.
The majority of GaN-based chargers on the market today sit around 65W or below, a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of price vs performance. But as demand for ever faster charging continues, OEMs are considering the trade-off between the added benefits to the consumer – significantly improved charging speeds and being able to charge a laptop with the same charger – and the unit price.
A limited number of high-wattage devices exist today, such as Xiaomi’s 210W fast charger, which allows users to charge its Redmi Note 12 Discovery’s 4,300mAh battery from empty to full in just nine minutes. Will the desire for faster, more functional chargers see this trend continue?
Emerging applications for GaN
Following 10 years in the consumer space, GaN technology is maturing, resulting in the material starting to penetrate industrial applications. The automotive and telecom/datacom industries, for example, have small footholds today, but are expected to see high growth rates in the coming years. Analysts forecasts that the automotive and mobility sector will grow from $5.3 million in 2021 to 308.9 million in 2027, at a staggering 97% CAGR. Telecom/Datacom will grow at a 69% annual growth rate to reach $617.8 million in 2027.
From 2024-25, the main drivers in the automotive market will be onboard chargers for electric vehicles (AC-DC conversion), as well as DC/DC converters(- voltages ranging from 48 V to 400V ). In the longer term, approaching 2030, OEMs will start to consider integrating GaN in the main inverters (650-800V).
China is one of the biggest markets in the automotive (particularly electric vehicle) market, which helps drive the region’s market independent of international trading issues. Small e-mobility will be an important application here, where compact urban cars, mopeds, scooters and e-bikes use small electric motors with 48V and 96V batteries become increasingly popular.
The different requirements for the consumer and automotive/telecom industries can explain the slower penetration into these markets up until now. Reliability is of major importance to the automotive and telecom industries, but less so for consumer, which sees users typically change devices every couple of years. In addition, the time needed to qualify new technologies – as well as build up supply chain security – within the more conservative automotive and telecom sectors is much greater, as seen with silicon carbide in automotive applications. However, now that the material’s reliability has been proven in part by its time in the consumer sector, significant interest is now being shown by OEMs in the telecom, and particularly automotive, sectors.
China’s ‘New Infrastructure Construction’ framework may help Chinese entities move faster in these emerging industrial applications. Driven by wanting to achieve further technological independence, the policy aims to develop internal capacity at all levels of the supply chain through government support for private sector participation.
In this way, applications can be developed more rapidly in order to gain ‘first mover’ advantages in markets that support digital infrastructure – for example EVs, renewable energy, and AI supported by datacenters – in which GaN is a crucial technology.
The last few years has seen an increasing number of car makers partner with GaN device providers. GaN Systems, an innovative Canadian company focused on power GaN semiconductors, has partnered with Toyota, and more recently with BMW on supplying GaN-based power transistors. Renault, Mclaren, Bugatti, and other car makers mentioned in Yole Intelligence’s report, have quietly been investing in the technology too.
In addition, German automotive system maker ZF has partnered with Israeli GaN company VisIC, while Italian car component maker Marelli has collaborated with Transphorm, a GaN device company.
What’s unique about the evolution of GaN in the automotive market is the established car companies partnering with innovative companies for GaN manufacturing capacity. In addition to GaN Systems, VisIC and Transphorm are less than 15 years old.
This points towards car maker’s push to adopt new materials as car makers try to meet electrification goals. But it may also signify a lesson learned from silicon carbide, another emerging material that plays an important role in power electronics systems in EVs. Tesla took an early lead in this, thanks to its collaboration with STMicroelectronics, becoming the first high-class car manufacturer to integrate a full SiC power module in its Model 3. Other car makers may now want to learn from Tesla’s strategy it took early on with SiC and make sure they do not miss the opportunity in GaN.
With its promise for smaller, cheaper and more ecological powering, the adoption of GaN in automotive, telecom/datacom and other industrial applications is set to expand. How it evolves in these applications, and the role it plays alongside silicon carbide, will be interesting to watch.
Follow Yole Intelligence for more updates as they follow this emerging market.
About the authors
Taha Ayari, Ph.D., is a Technology & Market Analyst, Compound Semiconductor and Emerging Substrates, at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. As a member of the Power Electronics & Wireless division at Yole, Taha’s expertise is mainly dedicated to power, RF, and optoelectronics. He is fully engaged in the development of technology and market reports as well as custom projects.
Taha has 2 years’ experience as a Technology & Cost Analyst at Yole SystemPlus , part of Yole Group, where he focuses on the development of compound semiconductor reverse engineering & costing analyses.
Prior to Yole, Taha was a research engineer at Georgia Tech Lorraine (Metz, France). He published numerous papers with a particular focus on III-N materials.
Taha holds an M.Sc. and a Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, USA).
Poshun Chiu is a Technology & Market Senior Analyst specializing in Compound Semiconductor and Emerging Substrates at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. As a member of the Power Electronics & Wireless division at Yole, Poshun focuses on power, RF, and opto-electronics. He is engaged in the development of technology and market reports and is also involved in custom projects.
Before joining Yole, Poshun had 9 years’ experience in R&D and product management at Epistar (TW & CHN). He is the author or co-author of more than 10 patents in solid-state-lighting. Poshun was also engaged in the development and evaluation of novel applications of process technology and components based on relevant semiconductor material systems.
Poshun received an MSc degree in Microelectronics from National Cheng Kung University (TW) and an MBA from IESEG School of Management (FR).
Ezgi Dogmus, PhD. is Team Lead Analyst in Compound Semiconductor & Emerging Substrates activity within the Power & Wireless Division at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group. With an international team of technology & market analysts, she is managing the expansion of the technical expertise and the market know-how of the company. In addition, Ezgi actively assists and supports the development of dedicated collection of market & technology reports, monitor as well as custom consulting projects.
Prior to Yole, Ezgi worked as a process development engineer for GaN-based RF and power solutions at IEMN (Lille, France).
After graduating from University of Augsburg (Germany) and Grenoble Institute of Technology (France), Ezgi received her PhD. in Microelectronics at IEMN (France).