Big demand drivers include EVs, power supplies and PV inverters

By
Heather Hamilton, contributing writer

The power semiconductor market is prepping for increased
demand for silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) devices. The latest
research from IHS Markit
indicates the SiC and GaN power semiconductor market will reach nearly $1
billion in 2020. The biggest demand drivers include hybrid and electric vehicles
(EV), power supplies and PV inverters, as well as market penetration,
particularly in China. 

One of the biggest growth drivers will be the main
powertrain inverter in hybrid and electric vehicles where SiC MOSFETs should
appear in the market in an estimated three to five years, according to IHS
Markit.

 

Revenue for SiC substrates is expected to reach $180
million in 2018, according to TrendForce.
Benefits of SiC include low on-resistance and low switching loss, making SiC
key to improving automotive battery life. The market researcher also expects 5G
to help drive the development of SiC and GaN third-generation semiconductor
materials.

Power semiconductor makers are responding. Microsemi Corp., for example, recently
introduced a low inductance package for high current, low specific
on-resistance SiC MOSFET power modules, offering 2.9 nH stray inductance that
enables high current, high switching frequency and high efficiency.

In a press release, Microsemi explained that it is expanding SiC solutions to provide a
greater range of power discrete solutions in a marketplace that promises
continued growth. “Our extremely low stray inductance standard SP6LI package is
ideal for improving the performance of SiC MOSFETs for high switching, high
current and high efficiency applications, offering a smaller sized power
systems solution which can help customers significantly reduce their equipment
needs,” said Leon Gross, Microsemi’s Discrete and Power Management business
unit vice president and business unit manager. “These superior switching
characteristics of our low inductance package enable customers to develop
higher performance and highly reliable systems to help differentiate them from
the competition.”

The SP6LI power modules can be used
in switch-mode power supplies and motor control in a variety of
applications including industrial, automotive, medical, aerospace and defense.

Partnerships
also are driving the development of new SiC devices. In 2015, Littelfuse Inc.,
which offers circuit protection, partnered with Monolith Semiconductor Inc., a
developer of silicon carbide technology, to develop power semiconductors for
industrial and automotive markets. Their latest offering includes two 1200-V
SiC n-channel, enhancement-mode MOSFETs.

Applications for
the new SiC MOSFETS include EVs, industrial machinery, renewable energy,
medical equipment, switch-mode power supplies, uninterruptible power supplies,
motor drives, high-voltage DC/DC converters, and induction heating.

“These new SiC
MOSFETs provide power converter designers with a state-of-the-art alternative
to traditional silicon-based transistors,” said Michael Ketterer, product
marketing manager for Power Semiconductors at Littelfuse, in a release. “Their
inherent material characteristics and ultra-fast switching capabilities offer a
variety of design optimization opportunities including increased power density,
higher efficiency, and the potential for lower bill-of-material costs.”

In February, ON
Semiconductor also extended its SiC portfolio to include a new family of 650-V
SiC diodes with higher switching capabilities with lower power loss and easy
device paralleling. ON Semi specifically calls attention to their usefulness
for PV inverters, EV/HEV chargers, telecom power, and data center power
supplies, which require higher efficiencies.

“Utilizing the unique
characteristics of the wide band gap materials, SiC technology offers tangible
benefits over silicon, and their robust construction provides a dependable
solution in applications in challenging environments. Our customers will
benefit from simplified, better performing, smaller footprint designs as a
result of these new devices,” said Simon Keeton, ON Semiconductor’s senior vice
president and general manager, MOSFET Business in a press release.

Cree is making moves too – kicking off the year with a
supply agreement with Infineon, a licensing agreement with Nexperia, and the
acquisition of the RF power business at Infineon. Knowmade and Yole
Développement recently
released a report
that examines the company’s strategy in more depth, which likely reflects the
greater goals of the market.