May 26, 2024

Advancements in Compound Semiconductors

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The performance demands of the electronics industry are growing fast and silicon, high-performance material, and the core of integrated circuits or chips are subject to limitations in terms of electronic, electrical, and thermal characteristics for next-generation applications. Newer materials, transistor structures, device topologies, manufacturing techniques, and packaging technologies are constantly explored for developing advanced electronic devices.

Compound semiconductors, which are a combination of two or more chemical elements, are emerging to be an alternative for some of the interesting applications in various sectors that demand high power, fast switching speed, high temperature, better radiation tolerance, and high efficiency. Silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride (GaN), gallium arsenide (GaAs), indium phosphide (InP), and aluminum-gallium-indium-phosphide (AlGaInP) are examples of compound semiconductor materials considered for high power applications. Though there are certain issues associated with the material and manufacturing of compound semiconductor devices, companies across the globe are exploring the capabilities of the technology for different industry verticals.

The computer circuit board and fast-moving cars. A hand holding a CPU chipset.

With a wide range of opportunities offered by compound semiconductor materials, some of the potential application areas include automotive (electric vehicles [EVs], hybrid EVs), industrial (motors, drives), consumer electronics, aerospace and defense, telecommunications (5G chipsets), healthcare, and energy.

Examples of companies developing next-generation compound semiconductor products include Infineon, Rohm, STMicroelectronics, Navitas Semiconductor, Efficient Power Conversion Corporation, Fuji, Toshiba, United Silicon Carbide Inc., GeneSiC Semiconductor, Microchip Technology Inc., Transphorm, GaN Systems, NXP Semiconductor, Allegro Microsystems, and onsemi.

Snapshot of Global R&D Efforts Driving Advancements:

Innovation efforts are geared towards enhancing the wafer diameter, better packaging techniques, improving the quality of the wafer and reducing its cost, minimizing material-related defects, enhancing device reliability, stability, performance, and efficiency, and exploring innovative device structures and design.

Better Packaging Techniques: Researchers from the University of Idaho, Moscow, are exploring wire bonding-based 3D SiC IC packaging techniques to enhance the electrical and mechanical performance of SiC IC packages.

Increasing the Wafer Diameter: Industrial participants such as STMicroelectronics, II-VI Incorporated are aiming to enhance the diameter of wafers to 200 mm for SiC power electronic applications. In this regard, industrial pilot lines are introduced to manufacture power electronic devices based on 200 mm SiC wafer.

Improving Reliability: Researchers from NASA are engaged in assessing the reliability of SiC devices for space applications by conducting tests related to radiation effects.

Addressing Heat Dissipation Issues: Diamond is considered to be integrated on GaN to dissipate the heat generated in GaN-based electronic devices. In this regard, research institutes from Japan including the Japan Science and Technology Agency, Tokyo, are exploring the challenges related to integrating GaN on diamond (which are used to fabricate transistors) in addition to analyzing the thermal boundary resistance between diamond and GaN. The research institutes are using various measurement and integration techniques to achieve this.

Minimizing Losses: With the objective of reducing switching losses to a larger extent and to bring down the on-resistance, Toshiba has developed a new class of SiC MOSFETs (metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors). The company claims that its newer SiC transistor is better than its second generation SiC MOSFETs and it was able to achieve this by making changes in the device structure.

Expanding Product Capability for High Voltage Applications: Infineon Technologies AG has expanded its CoolSiC portfolio to cater to the high voltage requirements of EVs, photovoltaics, and energy storage. The company’s SiC MOSFET, which is its new CoolSiC portfolio includes 2kV SiC MOSFET with a 2kV SiC diode that can cater to the demand of 1500V DC systems with lower switching losses and higher blocking voltage.

Odyssey Semiconductor Technologies has introduced 1200V vertical GaN power FETs, which can deliver high power conversion efficiency compared to silicon and SiC. Samples are available for customer use.

Singapore-based Gallium Semiconductor has come up with a broad range of GaN-based products that can effectively address the requirements of sectors such as industrial, 5G, medical, aerospace, and defense.

Performance Assessment: Researchers from the Nanjing Electronic Devices Institute, and National ASIC System Engineering Research Center, Southeast University, China, have investigated the variation in degradation of electrical characteristics, which were due to different device structures associated with SiC MOSFETs. Researchers from the Ohio State University, USA, and the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, India, have conducted a detailed assessment of the performance, ruggedness, and reliability issues associated with SiC power MOSFETs.

Exploring Advanced Memory: It is interesting to note that researchers from Lancaster University, the University of Liverpool, and the University of Warwick, United Kingdom, are exploring ULTRARAM, which is a III–V compound semiconductor memory. The objective of the research team is to achieve high speed and efficient random access memory.

Researchers from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and Korea Advanced Nano Fab Center (KANC) are exploring capacitor less InGaAs DRAM. Key attributes include improved reliability, scalability, and 3D device stacking.

Volume Production: STMicroelectronics is planning to set up a SiC epitaxial substrate manufacturing operation in Italy with the aim of satisfying the demands of the automotive and industrial sectors as they move toward higher efficiency. The company aims for volume production of 150 mm SiC epitaxial substrates and plans to expand to 200 mm wafer diameter in the future.

Increasing Production Capacity: Wolfspeed involved in driving the adoption of SiC- and GaN-based technologies has plans to establish a large materials manufacturing facility in North Carolina with the objective of increasing the production capacity by ten-fold compared to its current SiC production capacity. The company is planning to produce 200 mm SiC wafers and investments are sought from the local government.

Innovative Device Architecture: Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Taiwan, and Oxford Instruments have come up with an innovative GaN HEMT architecture called GaN MISHEMT, which will open opportunities for components to function with improved performance, reliability, and efficiency at higher voltages.

Integration Technology: Canada-based ELPHiC has demonstrated a novel optoelectronic integration technology, which can lead to the development of InP chips that consume low power, performs better, and has enhanced reliability for lasers and PIN receivers.

Conclusion

Various metrics such as funding/investment, strategic alliances (joint ventures [JVs], collaborations/partnerships, mergers & acquisitions [M&As]), standards/regulations, device performance, applicability in diverse industrial sectors, the strength of stakeholder ecosystem, and global economic scenario will determine the growth and adoption potential of compound semiconductor devices. The key focus of compound semiconductor manufacturers is on increasing substrate diameter, enhancing device architecture, reducing losses and cost, increasing the manufacturing capacity and material properties, boosting energy efficiency, and developing commercial products.

Thus, organizations across the globe are directing their efforts to develop next-generation compound semiconductor-based products that are energy efficient, reliable, and low-cost to serve the demands of high-power applications.

Authored By: – Kasthuri Jagadeesan, Director, TechVision, Frost & Sullivan

Blog Received on Mail from Frost & Sullivan

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