Power GaN knocks Si off the top spot in consumer applications – The chronicles by Yole SystemPlus

Gradually gaining ground to replace traditional Si MOSFETs in many power electronics applications, GaN devices have made significant inroads into various consumer fast-charging products, in particular. According to Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, the consumer handset segment is expected to continue to drive the GaN power device market in the short term with a Compound Annual Growth Rate for 2021-2027 (CAGR2021-2027) of 52%. Other power supply applications in datacom/telecom and automotive – targeting improved efficiency and performance – are expected to ramp up, leading, most likely, to a reshaping of the GaN market landscape in the long term.

With PCIM 2023 (from May 9th to 11th in Nuremberg, Germany) and the long-awaited event dedicated to power electronics about to commence, Yole SystemPlus, part of Yole Group opened the proceedings at CS International (April 18-19) in Brussels with a presentation based on its newly published report titled “GaN-based Charger Comparison 2023”. The report reveals behind-the-scenes details of GaN devices in six different chargers, and a Bill of Materials (BOM) analysis of two 45 W Samsung fast chargers with Power Integrations (Si) and Navitas (GaN) dies. In addition, don’t hesitate to visit us during PCIM at Hall 6 – 157 and contact us to book meetings!

Discover today a power GaN review of Yole SystemPlus’ analysts.

Profiling power GaN devices in chargers

In its new report, Yole SystemPlus studies GaN HEMTs (High Electron Mobility Transistors) currently positioned at the heart of technological innovations in the consumer market, especially for smartphone and laptop chargers. Seven GaN devices integrated into Samsung, Lenovo, Motorola, Apple, Xiaomi, and Dell chargers were analyzed.

Compared to traditional Si-based MOSFETs, GaN HEMTs feature higher power density, better efficiency, lower heat generation, and size reductions. But most of all, Yole SystemPlus highlights the multiple design possibilities enabled by these devices, offering the manufacturer great flexibility in the construction of the system and access to an extensive range of functions. The main design options and associated players’ strategies are identified. GaN Systems, Infineon, and GaNPower have chosen discrete component solutions, which, however, involve facing the challenges of finding an external driver and integrating it into the system. Other companies prefer providing ‘all-in-one’ solutions: EPC offers monolithic ICs (Integrated Circuits), while Texas Instruments and Power Integrations opt for multichip integration configurations. As the industry leader in GaN Power ICs, Navitas Semiconductor favors both monolithic and multichip integrated device solutions.

To fully describe the profile of GaN HEMTs, let us not disregard one of its main drawbacks. Extensive cracks are generated during the growth of GaN on a Si substrate due to the lattice mismatch and significant difference in thermal coefficient between GaN and Si. To eliminate the resulting stresses, nucleation and buffer layers are introduced. Despite this, the manufacturing yield of GaN devices remains low compared with Si (65-75% versus 90%). By using sapphire as the substrate in some of its HEMTs, Power Integrations skirts this problem…but faces the cost issue. However, because of existing production lines and well-proven technology, the epitaxy solution of choice remains GaN on Si for most applications, forcing the key players to find a path forward in improving the manufacturing yield of GaN-on-Si dies.

Samsung power charger comparison

In this same report, two 45 W Samsung fast chargers (a Si-based and GaN-based) were compared. Disassembling the devices reveals that one charger uses a Power Integrations SiP (System in Package) solution with Si IC, while the other uses a Navitas monolithic GaN IC. Although both chargers have the same power rating, the Navitas GaN IC option provides the best of both worlds with a reduction in charger size and weight of 40% and 18%, respectively, and a lower BOM cost. In addition, it is interesting to note that using Navitas IC allows the integration of many more components in a more compact system, confirming the excellent thermal management properties of the wide bandgap material. However, it is also worth mentioning that fully reaping the benefits of GaN properties will only be possible with careful design considerations.

Other GaN opportunities: the hidden part of the iceberg

According to Yole SystemPlus, the consumer market segment is, in a way, the tip of the iceberg. GaN technology could reveal its full potential in a wider range of applications. In the last two years, new companies (GaNext – China, Elevation Semiconductor – USA…) and recent M&As may suggest that the market is anticipating the adoption of GaN in OBCs (OnBoard Chargers) and 900-1200 V applications in HEV/EVs. On a broader scale, GaN devices and their high efficiency and low power consumption features could find their place in many climate-saving solutions. Jochen Hanebeck, CEO of Infineon Technologies, confirmed this strategy when announcing in March the acquisition of GaN Systems by the global semiconductor leader in power systems.

Still, there is a lot to be done to fully comply with the standards required by these highly demanding sectors. Texas Instruments recently presented an AEC-Q100-GaN automotive qualification strategy for HEV/EV onboard charging and high-voltage DC/DC conversion, indicating that work is underway.

Make sure to meet the Yole Intelligence and Yole SystemPlus compound semiconductor and power electronics teams during PCIM 2023 from 9 to 11 May.
Visit us at Hall 6 – 157: More information here!

About the authors

Oluwasayo Loto, PhD., is a Technology and Cost Analyst at Yole SystemPlus, part of Yole Group. Oluwasayo work focuses on Power Semiconductor device technologies.
With a solid expertise in the process development and electrical characterization of diamond power transistors, Oluwasayo’s mission is to develop reverse costing reports on innovative Si based and GaN based power devices and other emerging technologies. Prior to Yole SystemPlus, Oluwasayo worked as an R&D engineer with CEA and CNRS on the development of semiconductor detectors and power device applications respectively. He has made significant contribution to yield improvement of diamond device fabrication.
Oluwasayo holds a Phd in Nanoelectronics and Nanotechnologies from the University Grenoble Alpes (France) and a double masters degree in materials science and engineering from TU Darmstadt (Germany) and Grenoble INP Phelma (France).

Elena Barbarini is Director, Semiconductor Devices Department, at Yole SystemPlus, part of Yole Group (Yole). Based on extensive experience in the semiconductor industry, Elena manages the production of reverse engineering & costing reports and custom projects through a dedicated team of analysts. The semiconductor device experts daily investigate innovative semiconductor manufacturing processes to reveal the technology choices made by the leading semiconductor companies, determine the process flows, evaluate manufacturing costs, and describe the related supply chain. Elena is responsible for the development of the industrial and technical expertise of the semiconductor devices team. In parallel, Elena uses her industrial and technical knowledge to define Yole SystemPlus’s product’s strategy. She also collaborates with the laboratory team to identify objectives and set up relevant methodologies to implement comprehensive physical analysis. Elena manages the business relationship with key Yole SystemPlus customers, identifying their needs, responding to their queries and presenting results. Prior to Yole SystemPlus, Elena had relevant experience at Alten (France), Osai (Italy), Vishay (Italy) and IBN (Singapore) where she developed significant competency and know-how in semiconductor manufacturing and related equipment, business development, and activity diversification. With a power electronics background, Elena authored numerous reverse engineering & costing reports and presented numerous times at key international conferences, trade shows and webcasts. She also authored many scientific papers and articles for power electronics media. Elena holds a Ph.D. in Power Electronics Engineering and a master’s degree in Micro & Nanotechnologies with a focus on integrated systems from Politecnico di Torino (Italy). She also graduated from Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) (Lausanne, Switzerland) and Grenoble’s Polytechnic Institute (France).