The question is: Who really needs GaN or SiC Power Devices ?

We know GaN and SiC are recurring subject, and you may be overwhelmed with it. We are sorry but what has been said about Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC) power devices market in the past hasn’t made a lot of good to the Power Electronics community. At PointthePower.com, we want to make things right and be clear about what is happening. Here is our point of view.

The question is: “Who really needs GaN or SiC Power Devices?”

We’re not the kind of analyst to go through the usual message about WBG and how they are awesome and will change the world. We are a market research company, and we see the world like one. It’s not about the performances, it’s about the product/market fit. So the question here might better be: What will GaN and SiC bring to power electronics systems, that IGBT, MOSFET and Super Junction MOSFET cannot bring?

Do you have an answer to this question? Because we do, as we worked on applications oriented market reports. We could list you the market segments where GaN can bring awesome competitive advantage (not in performance, again, but real end-product competitive advantage, the kind that is expected by users). There are other market segments where GaN penetration will happen only when prices drop. All the people who say otherwise are trying to sell a wonderful world with market nonsense.

It’s not very different for Silicon Carbide. The technology has been here for a while, and as no sweet product/market fit appeared to start production and help establish production, the market had to be patient. All because SiC product/market fit is on a much higher voltage that current product offering.

GaN Power Devices market penetration is not comparable with SiC Power Devices’

We know you had many market reports trying to tell you about this marvellous competition between the two Wide Band Gap materials, GaN and SiC. Why would GaN and SiC be in competition on the Power devices market when one gives its best at 10 kV (or so) and the other is good for 0.6kV range (also known as 600V…). These power devices do not compare, thus their market penetration will not compare. Don’t try to measure different technologies with different advantages with the same scale.

Silicon Carbide Gallium Nitride IGBT Super Junction MOSFET mapping market positionning and strategy

Extract from a Fairchild Semiconductor presentation. Designed originally by Alex AVRON, founder of PntPower.com

GaN is made for lower voltages, high-end products. We know you have seen this infographic picture somewhere (or different versions of it). PointThePower.com founder drew it a few years ago, inspired by so many that looked alike but were missing some pieces of information (like SiC and GaN integration). It happens to be quite true still now.

GaN is in direct competition with Super Junction MOSFET. SiC is in competition with IGBT. MOSFET is still used on its own low-cost markets. The only SiC and GaN shared voltage range could be 600V in the kilowatt range applications. We believe that GaN will quickly be cheaper and kill Silicon Carbide competition at birth, in this voltage range. We think there is no huge competition and we would like designer to start focusing on the one technology matching their products.

Now, looking at GaN performances, we realize it’s to be used at 600V mainly. It may go to 1200V later, when technology available. So far it’s not.

We then went and talked a lot with many devices makers, system designers and end-users. The person using the product is the only one who is able to let you know about the product/market fit. The responses we had were very different from one application to another and the analysis of it is synthesized in our market report.

The main idea is that the first market to adopt GaN will be for consumer applications.

GaN Power Devices is for Consumer markets first and SiC will be for the Transportation

Wide Band Gap power devices are not cheap. Logically, the applications that will adopt them will find a non-negligible benefit in using them rather than another cheaper device. The way to go for the analysis is then to find this reason, and the making of this market report leads us to it. GaN push further the limits of Super Junction MOSFETs. The latter brought smaller and more efficient power supplies to consumer applications. So, future GaN users will look for smaller and more efficient power supplies and can sell this feature at high price (to pay for the device’s production costs). This is what leads us to say that GaN will be used in consumer high-end power supplies.

Many have been struggling to define what will be the future application for Silicon Carbide MOSFET. Going back to its characteristics, it’s a material that provides devices with a very high-blocking voltage (much higher than GaN, MOSFET and even IGBT). This characteristic is making it very attractive for a certain type of applications. These applications, as rail traction or grid and T&D, are already working with these devices. The thing is that they have very long product lifecycles, which makes production introduction and adoption as long.

The Next Steps for SiC & GaN in Power Electronics

Don’t expect Wide Band Gap to be quickly adopted in the power electronics world. It will take time because designers are reluctant to change (you know we all know it!).

If you want to know better what will happen for GaN in power electronics, we have a market report for that.

If you want to know what will happen for SiC, our report will be released during 2017. Meanwhile, you can write us a message with your questions and we will give you an answer free of charge.

4 replies
  1. Andrew Wu says:

    There has been some activity in GaN today with GaN Systems, EPC and others. but I don’t see where they are being implemented.
    where are their major design wins?

    Reply
    • Alex says:

      Hi Andrew,

      The implementation of GaN takes a little bit of time, and it will start with niche makets. We cannot really see major design that would obviously integrate GaN. Even the laptop/electronics charger market has design improvements possible without GaN. I think that Dialog Semiconductor, main supplier for Apple power conversion parts, releasing a GaN IC for chargers is a good sign.

      Reply
      • Al says:

        Gan allows higher power density so you’ll see thinner tv’s, smaller devices. There is slow adoption partially because alot of the big companys dont want to compete with themselves so they’re taking a wait and see. Kind of like electric cars, before Tesla came along. People will want lighter and smaller chargers and gan enables that. Also Gan products in 500-600 Volt have been achieved. It allows smaller passive devices like inductors and caps and companys are working on products to integrate the gan drivers into the same die to save BOM costs. This is attractive to companys.

        Reply
        • Alex Avron says:

          Thanks for your comment. It’s a tiny, but clear explanation of where we are now. The question we try to reply to in our market reports and analyses is: “When, who and how will GaN be used ?”

          Reply

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