Written by Peter Clarke - 3/7/2012 2:20 PM EST
LONDON - The market for power devices implemented in gallium nitride was less than $2.5 million in 2011, according to market research firm Yole Developpement (Lyon, France). However, there is a great deal of R&D activity and Yole sees the power GaN market growing to nearly $0 million in 2012 and $500 million in 2016.
International Rectifier Corp. (El Segundo, Calif.) and Efficient Power Conversion Corp. (El Segundo, Calif.) are likely to remain the two main vendors of GaN power devices in early 2012 and the annual market is likely to say below $10 million, Yole said.
The year of 2013 should see a transition from product qualification to production for a number of GaN power chip companies as the annual market climbs to $50 million. The availability in 2015 power devices built using processes with +600-V breakdown specifications should open the market to off-mains applications by which time 12 to 15 companies should be sharing consumption of more than 100,000 6-inch equivalent wafers.
Beyond 2015 the qualification of GaN for the electric vehicle sector would allow the GaN device business to approach $1 billion in annual value, according to Philippe Roussel, power electronics business unit manager at Yole. Nonetheless that will depend on how and when automobile makers choose between silicon, silicon-carbide, and GaN technology.
A number of alternative substrates are being pursued including GaN-on-Sapphire, GaN-on-SiC, GaN-on-GaN, GaN-on-AlN and GaN-on-silicon. Yole takes the position that GaN-on-silicon is likely to dominate production as 6-inch wafers topped with 7-micron thick GaN epi are already available. Similar wafers of 200-mm diameter are under qualification and their availability will likely make this technology the economic choice, Yole said.
Some LED players, who already use GaN, are looking at GaN power as a means of diversification for their manufacturing capacity, Yole said.