LED makers could diversify with GaN power electronics production

March 7, 2012 — The gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductor market is currently small, with only 2 major device suppliers. However, new entrants are ramping to production, silicon-based electronics suppliers developing GaN technologies, and light-emitting diode (LED) makers diversifying capacity to make power electronics, according to Yole Developpement.

Also read: GaN LED market growth starts in 2012

The GaN power device industry generated less than $2.5M (estimated) revenues in 2011, with only IRF & EPC Corp. selling products on the open market. R&D contracts, qualification tests, and sampling buoyed the industry with extra revenue. GaN power device revenues are likely to stay below $10M for devices in 2012, with the rest being made through R&D sales.

While IRF and EPC will remain on top in the near term, several new entrants in the GaN power device sector will transition from qualification to production ramp-up in 2013, possibly taking revenues over $50 million. In 2015, as these new entrants achieve higher volumes and qualified 600V+ GaN devices hit the market, GaN will reach non-consumer applications and grow rapidly. In 2015, 12-15 players will together consume more than 100,000 (6" equivalent) epiwafers.

If GaN is qualified in the electric/hybrid electric vehicle (EV/HEV) sector, GaN device business could top the billion dollar line and the GaN-on-Si substrate market could exceed $300 million in revenues by 2019, explains Dr Philippe Roussel, Business Unit Manager, Power Electronics at Yole Développement. However, it is still unclear how car makers will choose between silicon carbide (SiC), GaN, or established silicon technology.

R&D activities are still fragmented between several substrate options for power electronics: GaN-on-sapphire, GaN-on-SiC, GaN-on-GaN, GaN-on-aluminum nitride (AlN) and GaN-on-Si. GaN-on-Si should take a dominant position, thanks to the availability of6" wafers with >7μm-thick GaN epi and 8" wafers under qualification.

Yole Développement identifies 5 companies positioned on the epiwafer business side and more than 6 GaN device pure-players, and another 15 Si-based power firms developing GaN technology.

LED makers are now looking at GaN power electronics, considering ways to convert existing underutilized LED fab capactity to make power semiconductors or epiwafers. That represents an “epsilon” today, but Yole Développement assumes it may create some waves in GaN industry growth. The two technologies are manufactured with similar processes and are subject to similar market dynamics. GaN epi technology came from the LED industry, while current GaN-on-Si epiwafer work is feeding both industries. Most epiwafer vendors are targeting LED and power segments with dedicated products and offers. Yole expects LED and power electronics manufacturing to become so intertwined in the future that the analysts are grouping them under "GaN device industry."

Figure. GaN device market size and list of applications sectors. SOURCE: Yole Power GaN report, March 2012.

Power device makers usually buy polished silicon wafers, conduct the epitaxy (or buy Si epi-wafers) unless using FZ thin wafers, then process the devices. This model is roughly the same for SiC technology. New GaN producers may not integrate metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) GaN epitaxy, instead buying GaN epiwafers and processing them in existing CMOS front-end lines. Alternatively, new entrants could fully integrate the GaN process, from the bare silicon, GaN epi, and front-end fab.

"Power GaN — 2012 edition," a report from Yole Développement, provides a complete analysis of the GaN device and substrate industry in the power electronics field: market forecasts, company involvements, etc.

Companies cited in the report: Aixtron, AZZURRO, BeMiTec, Bridgelux, CamGaN Ltd, Diotec, Dow Corning, Dowa Electronics Materials, Enphase , EPC Corp., EpiGaN, Episil, Fairchild, FBH, Freescale, Fuji Electric, Furukawa, GaN Systems, GLO AB, Global foundries, HelioDEL, Hitachi, III-V Lab, IMEC, Infineon, International Rectifier, Intersil, IQE, Kyma, Lattice Semiconductor, LG Electronics, LG Siltron, Lumileds, MicroGaN, Microsemi, Mitsubishi Electric, Nitek Inc., Nitronex, NTT, NXP, OnSemi, Osram, Oxford Instruments, Panasonic, Plessey Semiconductors, Powdec, Power Integrations, Renesas, Rose Street Lab, Samsung, Sanken Electric, Shimei Semiconductor, Shindengen, Siltronic, Soitec, STMicro, Sumitomo SEI, Texas Instruments, Toshiba, Transluscent, Transphorm, TSMC, Tyndall National Institute, Veeco, Velox, Vishay

Philippe Roussel holds a PhD in Integrated Electronics Systems from the National Institute of Applied Sciences (INSA) in LYON. He joined Yole Développement in 1998 and is leading the Compound Semiconductors, LED,Power Electronics and Photovoltaic department.

Yole Développement is a group of companies providing market research, technology analysis, strategy consulting, media in addition to finance services. Access reports at www.yole.fr.

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