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13 May 2009


Bulk GaN substrates to expand from blue lasers to lighting and power electronics

The market for bulk and free-standing gallium nitride (GaN) substrates is currently driven mostly by blue laser-diode production and related applications in high-density data storage (in particular, strong demand for Blu-ray players and game stations), according to the report ‘Bulk GaN 09’ from market research firm Yole Developpement.

Graphic credit: Yole Developpement.

The market is currently centered essentially on free-standing GaN material. However, the shortage of this product has to be compensated for by the use of home-made epitaxial liftoff (ELO) GaN-on-sapphire substrates. Yole estimates that about 28% of laser diodes were made on ELO-GaN in 2008. This percentage will decrease a little but will remain significant in 2012.

However, starting in 2011 or most likely 2012, a portion of bulk GaN production will be used to make ultra-high-brightness (UHB) LEDs, forecasts Yole. “That will only be possible with a sharp drop in bulk-GaN prices,” says project manager Philippe Roussel. The critical price threshold for a 2-inch LED-grade substrate needs to be below $1500 to act as leverage for a takeoff of the LED market, he reckons.

The years 2012 and 2013 will also see the introduction of new high-power devices based on bulk GaN. But again, this is strongly dependent on the pricing of bulk GaN, which will have to compete with alternative 4-inch and future 6-inch silicon carbide (SiC) offerings and GaN-on-silicon technology.

Asia currently dominates the GaN substrate market, but the European Union and the USA are credible challengers, says Yole. The main producer of free-standing GaN remains Sumitomo, mostly supplying Nichia and Sony for laser production. However, other challengers such as Hitachi Cable (now sampling 3-inch wafers) and Mitsubishi Chemical are gaining more of a presence.

In Europe, Lumilog of Vallauris, France (acquired by Saint-Gobain group in April 2008) is fine-tuning its product lineup for the LED illumination business, while Ammono and TopGaN Ltd (both of Warsaw, Poland) are improving their already strong expertise in low-dislocation-density crystals. The USA, including Kyma Technologies Inc of Raleigh, NC, Inlustra Technologies Inc of Santa Barbara, CA and Oxford Instruments-TDI of Silver Spring, MD, is mainly focusing on non-polar or semi-polar material.

The production volume for 2-inch substrates could reach about 100,000 units by 2010, leading to a $240m market for both free-standing and ELO GaN, forecasts Yole. Beyond 2013, demand for bulk GaN in LED lighting applications will increase rapidly, dominating the GaN substrate market in terms of volume by 2015, the market research firm concludes.

Search: Bulk GaN substrates Sumitomo Hitachi Cable Mitsubishi Chemical Lumilog TopGaN Kyma Inlustra Oxford Instruments-TDI