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For over four decades, power management efficiency and cost have improved steadily as innovations in power MOSFET structures, technology, and circuit topologies have kept pace with the growing need for electrical power. In the new millennium, however, the rate of improvement has slowed dramatically as the silicon power MOSFET approaches its theoretical bounds. At the same time, a new material, gallium nitride (GaN) is steadily progressing on its journey toward a theoretical performance boundary that is 6,000 times better than the aging silicon MOSFET and 300 times better than the best GaN products on the market today.
Smaller, faster, lower cost, and more integrated, GaN-on-Silicon devices have the confidence of designers across a spectrum of power conversion applications. In this article, Alex Lidow explains why it’s getting harder to avoid using GaN power transistors and ICs.
Alex Lidow has deep roots in the electronics industry. His father and grandfather founded International Rectifier in 1947. Alex eventually ran the company himself for 12 years. He is currently the CEO of EPC, a company that manufactures gallium nitride-based power transistors and integrated circuits. These products are now found in lidar systems for autonomous vehicles, in 4G/LTE base stations, in DC-DC converters for servers and satellites, and in a wide variety of medical products.
Today’s GaN FETs are improving rapidly in size and performance. The benchmark devices are still 300 times away from their theoretical performance limits.
The early GaN adopters needed the speed. Big examples were lidar systems for autonomous cars, drones, and robots, and 4G/LTE base stations. The volume has grown, and now GaN power devices are at a point where the prices are equivalent to the slower, bigger and aging power MOSFET. Thus, it is time for GaN’s frontal assault!
Bodo’s Power Systems
In this episode of PSDtv Alex Lidow, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Efficient Power Conversion (EPC) is at APEC 2019 in Anaheim and discusses why their GaN on Silicon devices make Silicon now dead.
This scientist got his Ph.D 40 years ago who saved the world's 15% energy consumption at one time. He is continuing his journey of innovations now in discovering silicon's replacement material for humankind.
My father always taught me that the true worth of an individual is measured based on their contribution to society. As I entered graduate school in 1975 I knew my passion was in the field of semiconductors, and I felt my best contribution to society would come from finding a successor to silicon. I did my graduate work in Gallium Arsenide, but realized by the time I received my PhD in 1977 that Gallium Arsenide’s prospects were limited as a semiconductor due to the basic materials properties, I went to work applying everything I learned to making better devices in silicon.
June 15, 2017
Gallium nitride (GaN) power transistors designed for efficient power conversion have been in production for seven years. New markets, such as light detection and ranging, envelope tracking, and wireless charging, have emerged due to the superior switching speed of GaN. These markets have enabled GaN products to achieve significant volumes, low production costs, and an enviable reliability reputation. All of this provides adequate incentive for the more conservative design engineers in applications such as dc–dc converters, ac–dc converters, and automotive to start their evaluation process. So what are the remaining barriers to the conversion of the US$12 billion silicon power metal–oxide–semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) market? In a word: confidence.
Enhancement mode gallium nitride transistors have been commercially available for over four years and have infiltrated many applications previously monopolized by the aging silicon power MOSFET.
By: Alex Lidow
In a featured interview with EEWeb Pulse EPC’s CEO, Alex Lidow, discusses what steps need to be taken to help with wide adoption of GaN devices.
Author: By Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, PSD
In this podcast, we talk to Alex Lidow of Efficient Power Conversion (EPC) about GaN devices and their impact on the power industry. EPC is a leader in enhancement-mode Gallium Nitride based power management devices. EPC was the first to introduce enhancement-mode Gallium-Nitride-on-Silicon (eGaN®) FETs as power MOSFET replacements in applications such as point-of-load converters, Power over Ethernet (PoE), server and computer DC-DC converters, LED lighting, cell phones, RF transmission, solar micro-inverters, and class-D audio amplifiers with device performance many times greater than silicon power MOSFETs.
Gallium Nitride transistors have been available since Eudyna and Nitronex first introduced depletion-mode RF transistors in about 2005. Since then many new companies have entered the field with both RF transistors (e.g. RFMD, Triquint, Cree, Freescale, Integra, HRL, M/A-COM, and others), and transistors designed to replace power MOSFETs in power conversion applications (e.g. Transphorm, International Rectifier, GaN Systems, microGaN, and Efficient Power Conversion). This article discusses if this ground swell of activity mean that GaN transistors are ready to replace power MOSFETs, and, if so, why?
By Alex Lidow, Ph.D., CEO, EPC
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Alex Lidow, the co-inventor of the HEXFET power MOSFET and CEO of Efficient Power Conversion (EPC), discusses the market adoption of Enhancement Mode Gallium Nitride Transistors (eGAN FETs) due to their tremendous size and performance advantages over silicon power MOSFETs, eGaN's “disruptive” technological impact on power semiconductor markets and potential applications, and EPC’s upcoming introduction of eGaN power devices for high voltage AC/DC converters and high power motor control applications.
Alex Lidow is interviewed by ECN's Editorial Director, Alix Paultre, on the Tinker's Toolbox, ECN's audio interview website. The interview explores the attributes of GaN technology, applications opened as a result of GaN's superior performance to MOSFETs and reasons for the take-up of eGaN FET products over the past year.
Listen to Interview
PowerPulse interviews Alex Lidow, Co-founder and CEO of Efficient Power Conversion Corporation (EPC). EPC designs, develops, and produces Gallium-Nitride-on-Silicon transistors used in power management.
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View video of EPC's CEO, Alex Lidow as he presents "eGaN - Starting from the GaN" at the Innovation Technology Conference in China.