Would Apple change the power GaN world?

Over a long period, industrial companies followed up at a distance the development of GaN-based solutions mainly managed by R&D institutes and laboratories. Today the context has changed.
Under the updated of its annual report, Power GaN: Epitaxy, Devices, Applications and Technology Trends, Yole Développement (Yole) identified, a lot of power electronics & compound semiconductor companies including leading players such as Infineon Technologies, STMicroelectronics… strongly engaged in significant projects of development. Some of them already introduce in their portfolio a GaN product. But it is not the majority. So what is the status of GaN technologies? Can we affirm a clear adoption of GaN products? What would be the main applications?… Business dream or reality, the power GaN industry has been deeply analyzed by the Power & Wireless team from Yole. The analysts propose you today to discover a snapshot of this industry.

Today, it is crystal-clear that, from theoretical point of view, GaN offers fantastic technical advantages over traditional Si MOSFETs; the technology is very appealing, and more and more players are entering; moreover the lowering of prices could make GaN devices a good competitor of the currently used Si-based power switching transistors.

“Nevertheless the technical panorama is not clear yet; every manufacturer presents its solution on die design and packaging integration. This brings to a strong competition which will accelerate technical innovations in terms of integration and better performances,” says Elena Barbarini, PhD, Head of Department Semiconductors Devices at System Plus Consulting.

Even though the current GaN power market remains tiny compared to US$32.8 billion silicon power market, GaN devices are penetrating confidently into different applications.

The biggest segment in the power GaN market is still power supply applications, i.e. fast charging for cellphones. This year, Navitas and Exagan introduced 45W fast-charging power adaptors with an integrated GaN solution. Then, LiDAR applications are high-end solutions that take full benefit of high-frequency switching in GaN power devices.

And what about the EV/HEV market? What is the status of GaN solutions in a market segment step by step dominated by SiC technology replacing Si IGBTs in main inverters? Therefore, Yole announces a US$450 million SiC market in 2023 in its Power SiC report.

“The accumulation of the market growth in various applicative markets, especially the power supply market segment which is the most important in that case, confirms our first scenario,” comments Ana Villamor, PhD, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole.“Under this Base Case scenario, GaN market is expected to grow steadily. At Yole, we announce a GaN market to grow with 55% CAGR between 2017 and 2023”.

However, this analysis is not the only way to see the tomorrow’s industry. Yole’s Power & Wireless team went further in their investigations. Is there any killer application that could cause the GaN power device market to explode? Yes possibly, Yole’s analysts said. As matter of fact, several industrial players confirm that the leading smartphones manufacturer, Apple could consider the GaN technology for its wireless charging solution.

“It goes without saying that the potential adoption of GaN by Apple or another smartphone giant would completely change the market’s dynamics and finally provide a breath of life to the GaN power device industry,” comments Ezgi Dogmus, PhD, Technology & Market Analyst and part of the Yole’s Power & Wireless team. “Indeed we imagine that after a company like Apple adopts GaN, numerous other companies would follow on the commercial electronics market.”

What could be the added-value of GaN technology? Various players, such as EPC and Transphorm, have already obtained automotive qualification in preparation for GaN’s potential ramp-up. In addition BMW i Ventures’s investment in GaN Systems clearly demonstrates the automotive industry’s interest in GaN solutions for EV/HEV technology… Globally, Yole’s second scenario, named Bull Case Scenario is much more aggressive, conditioned by the adoption of GaN wireless charging solution by leading consumer manufacturers.

According to the market research, in this context, the GaN power business could reach around US$423 million by 2023, with 93% CAGR between 2017 and 2023.


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