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Jan 10th, 2014
GaN-on-silicon wafers: the enabler of GaN power electronics
Low cost silicon substrates have brought the fi rst GaN devices to market. AZZURRO Semiconductors, EpiGaN, NTT Advanced Technology, Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology and Powdec discuss what remains to be done to further penetrate into the silicon-dominated power electronic world.
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GaN in power semiconductors is one of the buzzwords the electronics industry, in terms of the numbers of people talking about it.” So says Chris Hodson, product manager for power emiconductors at semiconductor equipment producer Oxford Instruments Plasma Technology (OIPT), based in Yatton, UK. In fact, today it’s more than just a buzzword – it’s a commercial reality, even if the vailable GaN transistors are only just beginning to wrest a fi rst small share in the power lectronics market from silicon. El Segundo, California’s International Rectifi er and EPC Corporation are behind the highest profi le initial GaN devices, rated up to 200 V, to stake claims in this sector. And both companies’ offerings have a major underlying characteristic in common that helps make them commercially viable: they are produced starting from comparatively low cost silicon substrates.

As well as keeping raw material costs to a minimum for device makers, such substrates also allow them to exploit the same tools currently used with silicon for many back-end processes. This promise is attracting many other companies, creating the “buzz”. But even with the increasing popularity of GaN-on-silicon technologies, are they really the ideal solution for power electronics that they seem? What challenges remain, and can any other substrate technologies compete?

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