SiC/GaN Poised for Power

PORTLAND, Ore.—Today Yole Development predicted that power transistors would radically shift from silicon wafers to silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) substrates—to achieve higher power in smaller spaces, according to its GaN and SiC Devices for Power Electronics Applications report.

One of the big drivers behind the shift is the electric vehicle (EV) and hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) industries, which Yole predicts will be majorly pushing the SiC technology to minimize the size of the power electronics using them.

SiC GaN Poised for Power

Silicon Carbide wafers (middle) greatly reduce the trench size required for the same power transistor over conventional silicon wafer (right).
(Source: Toyota)

Wide-band-gap (WBG) materials like SiC and GaN have been slower to adopt than Yole previously predicted, but the new report claims that the companies developing them are on the fast-track to overcoming the few remaining obstacles to mass adoption. Besides hybrid- and full-electric vehicles Yole predicts SiC dominance in both low- (600) and high-voltage (up to 3,300), applications such as power factor correction (PFC), photovoltaics, diodes, wind, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and motor drives.

Toyota’s goal is to have 10 percent improvement in fuel efficiency–5 percent confirmed so far–while shrinking the size of the power control unit by 80 percent.
(Source: Toyota)

The SiC overall market for power devices has grown from $133 million in 2014 and is predicted to more than triple to $436 million by 2020. Power diodes (80 percent of which are SiC worldwide) will remain the biggest market segment followed by power factor correction, photovoltaic (PV) inverters, wind, uninterruptible power supplies and motor drives.

Yole predicts strong growth in the GaN power transistor market over the next few years.
(Source: Yole)

Challenges remain for electric vehicle power train inverters, which Yole predicts will be solved by 2020. Nevertheless, hybrid- and full-electric vehicles remain the fastest growing segment which is predicted to take off next year due to huge investments in wide-bandgap materials like SiC and GaN. Unfortunately their popularity could also lead to price erosion.

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