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5 March 2008


Wide-bandgap electronics to grow at 30%

After years of development, the market for electronic devices based on wide-bandgap semiconductors – e.g. gallium nitride (for microwave applications), silicon carbide (for power supplies and motor controls) and less mature materials such as aluminum nitride - is set to grow at 30% or more per year through 2012, according to the report ‘Wide-bandgap Electronics—2008’ by market research firm Strategies Unlimited.

The devices will have to compete against established semiconductor-based devices and vacuum tubes in segments that will have a combined value of about $1bn in revenues by 2012. But, with rapid breakthroughs, the market could reach as much as $300m, as manufacturing costs fall and the products can compete against silicon devices in power supply applications.

Compared to silicon technology, wide-bandgap materials have superior properties for high-frequency, high-temperature or high-power electronics but have been slower to develop, and are much more difficult and expensive to manufacture (due, in part, to high melting points, above 2000°C). So, wide-bandgap electronic devices are targeted at competing in niches where silicon and other solutions are inferior.

Early growth is dominated by products for microwave power amplifiers, such as for communications, radar, and military uses. Growth in products for power management will take longer, while low-power products for high-temperature environments will not see a significant opportunity through the forecast period.

Strategies Unlimited says that there are more than 150 firms in 16 countries researching wide-bandgap materials and devices. Leading suppliers of wide-bandgap electronics are currently Cree Inc of Durham, NC, USA and Japan’s Eudyna, with two-thirds of the revenues. The market is split among several types of player. Cree is leveraging its internal manufacturing of SiC substrates and LEDs to be competitive in wide-bandgap electronics, while Durham-based Nitronex is focusing on low-cost manufacturing by growing wide-bandgap material on silicon substrates. Meanwhile, established GaAs suppliers like Eudyna, RFMD, Triquint, and others also aim to leverage their expertise in microwave electronics, while STMicroelectronics and Infineon aim to leverage their expertise in power management components.

However, the projected market growth depends strongly on many factors, particularly on continuing improvements in substrate quality, price, and availability; new device and package designs; and the ability of system designers to take advantage of the new technology.

The ultimate goal is to make the devices on native substrates with diameters of at least 4-inches, and defect levels of 10 4 per cm 2, or less. Such improvements would increase manufacturing yields and lower costs, and ultimately expand the market for the electronic devices, the report says.

See related item:

GaN-based LEDs the main consumer of nitride materials

Search: Wide-bandgap GaN SiC AlN