To any device that requires electricity, power electronic devices are incredibly important. Despite this, they remain underappreciated in the semiconductor sector. In general, they are present in power converter circuits for the conversion of AC to DC voltage. They also power electric motors and DC-DC voltages.
Their improvement increases the efficiency of electronic devices. Today, they are key in enabling carbon-reducing technologies and energy savings. They are very important when it comes to electric vehicles, LED lighting, and solar power generation.
Semiconductor materials are frequently used in power electronics. They often come in the form of Gallium Nitride and Silicon Carbide, which are wide-bandgap materials. The name comes from the electron energy bandgap that is wider than that of silicon. This has granted them helpful characteristics like higher frequency switching and lower electrical resistance than MOSFETs and IGBTs.
While typically grouped together, GaN and SiC have key differences. For one, chemical vapor deposition or physical vapor transport is used to grow SiC ingots. These wafers require slicing them into disks, which can be challenging due to their hardness. Meanwhile, GaN substrates are grown above silicon wafers via CVD. This is also challenging due to the lattice constant mismatch of the two materials. GaN power devices have the drain and source on the same side.
Their optimal voltage levels are also different. GaN devices that have a rating of approximately 100V breakdown voltage can be used in telecom infrastructure and cloud computing. Their high frequency can lead to more compact solutions. Meanwhile, SiC devices have 650V and higher. At 1200V, it is ideal for solar inverters, industrial conversion from AC to DC, solid-state transformers, and electric vehicle chargers.
Gallium nitride and silicon carbide can contribute to the upcoming power revolution. We can’t wait to see more of their applications.