28 June 2019: A generational shift is taking place in power electronics. New semiconductor technologies such as SiC and GaN are enabling smaller and more integrated devices capable of handling higher power density levels. With these, the bottleneck against higher temperature operation is not the semiconductor device but the packaging material. A critical packaging material is the die (and to a lesser extent substrate) attach. The push towards higher temperatures has, in some cases, already pushed solder, the incumbent, to or beyond its performance limit, creating the need for an alternative. The need to sustain the roadmap towards higher temperature will only aggravate the challenge. Sintered metal pastes have emerged as a compelling proposition. They increase the thermal conductivity and the melting temperature, allowing devices to reliability operate at higher temperatures. This technology is already in commercial use after some seven years of development and its markets will expand as the shift towards new semiconductor technologies further accelerates. Sintered metal paste technology is improving. The development targets are to achieve rapid low (or zero) pressure sintering of ever larger surface areas and to narrow the significant price differential versus SAC solder. There is innovation in the material system. Ag is dominant but promising Cu alternatives have also emerged with friendlier sintering conditions. Nano or hybrid (nano + micron) are positioning themselves as alternatives to traditional solutions based on micron-sized particles. The short-term promise is to lower the sintering temperature whilst the long-term one is to eliminate it altogether. Suppliers are also diversifying the product form factor, moving beyond just screen or stencil printing, to make the product more of a drop-in replacement. Machines makers are now offering turn-key solutions, integrating the pick-and-place, the drying, the pressure sintering units.
24 June 2019: Sanan Integrated Circuit Co Ltd (Sanan IC) of Xiamen City, Fujian province (China’s first 6-inch pure-play compound semiconductor wafer foundry) has announced the commercial release of its 150mm gallium nitride on silicon (GaN-on-Si) wafer foundry services, intended for the latest high-voltage AC/DC and DC/AC power electronics applications. G06P111 is a 650V enhanced-mode high-electron-mobility transistor (E-HEMT) GaN process that adds to the firm’s power electronics wafer foundry portfolio of wide-bandgap (WBG) compound semiconductors, which includes 100mm and 150mm silicon carbide (SiC) for high-voltage Schottky barrier diodes (SBD). Leveraging years of high-volume GaN manufacturing experience gained by parent company Sanan Optoelectronics for the LED market, Sanan IC is able to complement its foundry services with in-house metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) growth capabilities of high-voltage, low-leakage GaN-on-Si epitaxial wafers with high uniformity. “The launch of our 650V GaN E-HEMT process technology exemplifies our commitment to advanced compound semiconductor manufacturing for serving the global market,” says Sanan IC’s assistant general manager Jasson Chen. “We view GaN-on-silicon as a complimentary technology to silicon carbide as key wide-bandgap semiconductors of choice for today’s high-voltage, high-power electronics industry,” he adds. “Component suppliers and system designers are migrating to wide-bandgap semiconductors over traditional silicon for enhanced performance, efficiency and reliability in high-power analog designs. Sanan IC is well positioned for success in serving this high-growth, large-scale power electronics market,” he believes. Having passed the JEDEC standard for process reliability qualification, the G06P11 GaN-on-Si process offers device structures for 650V E-mode FETs that support a drain-to-source on-state resistance (RDS(on)) range of 50-400mΩ. Engineered for low leakage, low gate charge, high current density and low dynamic specific on resistance (Rsp), it enables ultra-fast-switching compact designs for high-temperature operation. Following later this year will be the launch of a 200V GaN E-HEMT process as well as a second-generation SiC SBD process with a merged PiN Schottky (MPS) diode structure. Sanan IC says that GaN-on-Si as a process technology is suitable for the latest wave of consumer and server applications such as power adapters, USB-PD (power delivery), portable chargers and power factor correction (PFC) for AC/DC uninterrupted power supplies (UPS). The technology is also getting traction in other markets such as EV/HEV (hybrid/electric vehicles), LiDAR, and wireless charging. The GaN power device market is rising at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 93% to $423m in 2023, according to the bull-case scenario of market research firm Yole Développement’s report ‘Power GaN 2018: Epitaxial, Devices, Applications, and Technology Trends report, December 2018’. Sanan IC says that it is dedicated to serving this emerging technology for these multiple market segments in the power electronics industry.
13 June 2019: The US Marine Corps has awarded Northrop Grumman Corp a $958m contract for Lot 6 full-rate production of an additional 30 units of gallium nitride (GaN)-based AN/TPS-80 Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar (G/ATOR) systems. The program is managed by Program Executive Officer Land Systems. “Northrop Grumman and the Marine Corps have successfully partnered to create a best of ground and airborne radar solution that exceeds the current threat on the modern battlefield,” says Christine Harbison, VP, land and avionics C4ISR, Northrop Grumman. “G/ATOR is a crucial capability that protects our warfighters and defends against today’s threat environment and the threat environment of the future,” she adds. “We are excited to reach the full-rate production decision and continue providing advanced multi-mission functionality that meets our customer’s mission needs, protects the warfighter in a rapidly changing threat environment, and has significant margin for capability growth.” G/ATOR replaces five legacy systems operated by the Marine Corps with a single system, providing significant improvements in performance compared with the legacy radar families in each of its modes. This results in reduced training, logistics and maintenance costs. The AN/TPS-80 G/ATOR is an active electronically scanned array (AESA) multi-mission radar that leverages GaN to provide comprehensive real-time, full-sector, 360° situational awareness against a broad array of threats. The highly expeditionary, three-dimensional, short-to-medium-range multi-role radar system is designed to detect, identify and track cruise missiles, manned aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as well as rockets, mortars and artillery fire.
12 June 2019: A consortium led by the Compound Semiconductor Centre Ltd (CSC) – a joint venture founded in 2015 between Cardiff University and epiwafer foundry and substrate maker IQE plc of Cardiff, Wales, UK – has been awarded £1.3m in funding through ‘The road to zero emission vehicles’ competition sponsored by OLEV (the Office for Low Emission Vehicles). CSC leads a consortium of partners across the power electronics supply chain: SPTS Technologies Ltd of Newport, Wales; Newport Wafer Fab Ltd; Turbo Power Systems Ltd of Gateshead, UK; and the South Wales-based Compound Semiconductor Applications (CSA) Catapult, supplemented with academic expertise in power systems and devices at Swansea University and Coventry University. The project GaNTT (Realisation of a mass-manufacturable Vertical GaN Trench FET architecture) will develop a voltage-scalable, vertical gallium nitride process platform (200-600V) suitable for electric vehicle (EV) applications and integrate the resulting device into an on-vehicle demonstrator for bi-directional battery charging. Vertical GaN architectures are a viable future technology for low- to medium-voltage and power applications, e.g. on-board charging (OBC) and DC-DC applications where higher switching speed is desirable. It also has the potential to meet the cost challenges related to existing silicon cabide (SiC) field-effect transistor (FET) technologies, although significant challenges in epitaxial material layer quality and device thermal management require de-risking. The project will focus on the development of large-diameter substrate solutions that provide high-quality, thick GaN layers and address the challenges of lattice mismatch and wafer bow by employing novel epitaxial substrate solutions for future foundry products. Vertical GaN devices architectures enable FET operation at high electric fields and thus facilitate a significant reduction in chip area compared with lateral power devices. The breakdown voltage can be increased by increasing the thickness of the epitaxial drift region supporting the electric field, enabling the voltage to be scaled independently of chip area. The device approach also incorporates an innovative source-metal/P-body Schottky contact approach, patented by researchers at Swansea and Coventry Universities, to provide better control and stability of the channel threshold voltage. Crucially, the project will evaluate prototype devices at the packaged device and sub-system level, with Turbo Power Systems providing a tier-1 automotive testing environment. The activity aims to establish a ‘materials to system’ UK supply chain in wide-bandgap materials and enhance exploitation opportunities for all partners by ensuring that device development is driven by automotive requirements. The performance benefits of the new platform technology are not limited to automotive applications, but are also suitable for use in other harsh environments (e.g. space applications, where the combination of improved power density and radiation-hardness would reduce payload and improve system reliability). “Vertical GaN Power Technology will deliver emerging opportunities across a broad applications space, currently growing at >50% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] and forecast to be worth >$150-300m by 2023,” says CSC’s GaN programme manager Robert Harper. “This activity will build on UK strengths in compound semiconductor materials and device technology to energize a new supply chain in automotive power component supply,” he adds.
4 June 2019: WIN Semiconductors Corp of Taoyuan City, Taiwan – the largest pure-play compound semiconductor wafer foundry – has expanded its gallium nitride (GaN) portfolio with the commercial release of NP15-00, a 0.15μm-gate technology that supports emerging mmWave PA applications including radar, satellite communications and 5G massive MIMO infrastructure. NP15-00 supports full MMICs enabling customers to design compact, linear or saturated high-power amplifiers through 35GHz. NP15-00 GaN employs a source-coupled field plate for improved breakdown voltage, and operates at a drain bias of 20V. This technology is fabricated on 100mm silicon carbide (SiC) substrates with through-wafer vias for low-inductance grounding. In the 29GHz band, NP15-00 offers saturated output power of 3W/mm with 13dB linear gain and greater than 50% efficiency without harmonic tuning. “The release of NP15 expands WIN’s portfolio of mmWave compound semiconductor technologies for transmit power amplifiers used in 5G mmWave radio access networks (RANs), satellite communications and radar systems,” says senior VP David Danzilio. “For mmWave active arrays, the higher transmit power and efficiency from NP15 affords designers greater flexibility to optimize antenna count, PA size and total array power,” he adds. “Depending on where deployed, mmWave RAN infrastructure will leverage access points of various sizes, shapes and power levels, and a broad trade-space is crucial to optimize the performance and economics of mmWave active antenna systems.” NP15-00 sample kits are available and can be obtained by contacting WIN’s regional sales managers. WIN is showcasing its compound semiconductor RF and mmWave solutions in booth 772 at the IEEE’s International Microwave Symposium (IMS 2019) in Boston, MA, USA (2–7 June).