EPC Technical Articles

GaN-on-Silicon Power Devices: How to Dislodge Silicon-Based Power MOSFETs

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. Design engineers, manufacturing engineers, purchasing managers, and senior management all need to be confident that GaN will provide benefits that more than offset the risk of adopting a new technology. Let's look at three key risk factors: supply chain risk, cost risk, and reliability risk.

IEEE Spectrum
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Connected Vehicles Will Make Their Connections Through Gallium Nitride

With the rise of autonomous cars and electric propulsion as driving forces in automotive applications, a huge new market for power devices based on gallium nitride grown on a silicon substrate (GaN-on-Si) is emerging.

Design World
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The Power and Evolution of GaN

Gallium nitride(GaN)-on-silicon low voltage power devices have enabled many new applications since commercial availability began in 2010. New markets, such as light detection and ranging (LiDAR), envelope tracking, and wireless power, emerged due to the superior switching speed of GaN. These new applications have helped develop a strong supply chain, low production costs, and an enviable reliability record. 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. In this series, a few of the many, high volume applications taking advantage of GaN to achieve new levels of end-product differentiation will be discussed. First, it is useful to explore the factors attributing to the rapid acceleration of the adoption rate.

Power Systems Design
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The Growing Ecosystem for eGaN FET Power Conversion

In recent years, GaN-based power conversion has increased in popularity due to the inherent benefits of eGaN FETs over conventional Si transistors. Migrating a converter design from Si to GaN offers many system-level improvements, which require consideration of all the components in that system. This trend has subsequently spurred a growth in the ecosystem of power electronics that support GaN-based designs.

Power Systems Designs
By Edward A. Jones, Michael de Rooij, and David Reusch
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GaN power finds its way, via AirFuel, into Dell’s Lattitude 7285

GaN power element technology has found its way into a major application in the industry with the release of the Dell Latitude computer using the AirFuel standard.

Planet Analog
July 19, 2017
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Power chips, but not as we know them

Max Smolaks welcomes gallium nitride, a new material which will replace silicon in the power chain

For the past 35 years, most power supplies have relied on power MOSFETs (metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistors) – voltage-controlled devices made of silicon that are used to switch and condition electricity.

Data Center Dynamics
April 19, 2017
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GaN applications: The next step in power management growth

See some of the GaN applications demonstrated by Efficient Power Conversion Corporation at APEC 2017.

EDN Network
April 3, 2017
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APEC 2017: GaN Technology Poised to Change the Way We Live

At APEC 2017, Efficient Power Conversion (EPC) showcased applications using eGaN technology in an effort to prove that it will soon change the way we live.

March 29, 2017
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Silicon Rival Stalks Apple, Google, Tesla-Facing Chip Markets

Silicon Valley's namesake raw material faces a promising new rival: gallium nitride (GaN). Some say the newcomer is poised to swarm the $30 billion semiconductor power supply market. It's a market that involves "anything that plugs into a wall" ranging from Apple (AAPL) iPhone chargers to Tesla Motors' (TSLA) luxury electric cars.

Investor's Business Daily
Allison Gatlin
July 2016
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A Silicon Pioneer Plays Taps for Silicon and Power Cords

Tuesday I was fortunate enough to have a meeting with Alex Lidow, founder of chip company EPC of El Segundo, California, and something of an luminary of the chip world. Lidow came up with the “power MOSFET,” a device that went on to be the basis of billions in semiconductor sales, in 1977.

His new company, whose initials stand for “Efficient Power Conversion,” proposes replacing silicon, the original basis of the MOSFET, and one of the most prevalent types of semiconductor around, with a different material, Gallium Nitride, commonly abbreviated as GaN — or “eGaN,” as Lidow calls the company’s new, improved form of GaN.

Tiernan Ray
June 29, 2016
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eGaN vs. Silicon - Comparing Dead-time Losses for eGaN FETs and Silicon MOSFETs in Synchronous Rectifiers

There have been several comparisons of eGaN FETs with silicon MOSFETs in a variety of applications, including hard-switched, soft-switched, and high-frequency power conversion. These studies have shown that eGaN FETs have large efficiency and power density advantages over silicon MOSFETs. Here we’ll focus on the use of eGaN FETs in synchronous rectifier (SR) applications and the importance of dead-time management. We show that eGaN FETs can dramatically reduce loss due to dead-time in synchronous rectifiers above and beyond the benefits of low RDS(on)and charge.

Power Systems Design
By: Dr. John Glaser & Dr. David Reusch, Efficient Power Conversion
June 13, 2016
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Raytheon's work on gallium nitride semiconductors could have a reach beyond radars

ANDOVER, Mass.—At the front door of Raytheon's Integrated Air Defense Center, there's a reminder of how big microwave electronics used to be—the original microwave oven. The now ever-present kitchen device was invented after a Raytheon engineer discovered his candy bar melted while he was standing near a magnetron used in a radar system the company was developing. Nearly the size of a refrigerator, the original microwave looks like it would cook a whole lot more than whatever was put within its metal grate, which was meant to contain the microwaves from its magnetron.

Ars Technica
June 9, 2016
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Thoughtful Board Design Unlocks the Promise of GaN

Power transistors with faster switching speeds will enable power supplies with smaller form factors and higher energy transfer efficiencies. Indeed, the elimination of heat sinks will give designers the ability to visualize entirely new form factors for power bricks and modules, including those enabling wireless power transfers. Gallium-nitride (GaN) transistors fabricated on silicon substrates can boost efficiencies and help shrink the footprint of power supplies.

Electronic Design
March, 2016
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5G base station architecture: The potential semiconductor solutions

eGaN technology is expected to be one of the most important solutions to power efficiency in base station infrastructure for 5G; the peak-to-average ratios will be worse in 5G. Envelope tracking is obvious right now as one way eGaN power transistors will do this, but over the next 3 to 5 years more applications will emerge as eGaN technology progresses.

Steve Taranovich
July 17, 2015
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New Chips Provide a Spark for Wireless Charging

EPC garners the attention of MIT Technology Review with its new products targeted for wireless charging applications. Recognizing EPC as a catalyst for jump-starting the market for wireless power systems, the author highlights the need for universally accepted technology standards. He reinforces his position quoting Alex Lidow saying that “…convenience, cost, and efficiency” are all factors needed for broad adoption of any standard…

MIT Technology Review
July 15, 2015
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Revenge Fuels Energy Fight

Power conversion involves creating tiny devices that convert electricity from one form to another, enabling all manner of electrical gadgets to function. Till now, silicon had been the preferred medium for power conversion processors, but as that element reaches the limits of its efficiency, attention has focused on new materials.

Los Angeles Business Journal
June 21, 2015
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Gallium Nitride Power Transistors Priced Cheaper Than Silicon

Last week, El Segundo, Calif.-based Efficient Power Conversion, announced that its offering two types of power transistors made from gallium nitride that it has priced cheaper than their silicon counterparts. “This is the first time that something has really been higher performance and lower cost than silicon,” CEO Alex Lidow says. “Gallium nitride has taken the torch and is now running with it.”

IEEE Spectrum
May 8, 2015
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Moore's Law at 50: The past and future

“Moore’s Law is morphing into something that is about new materials,” said Alex Lidow, a semiconductor industry veteran and CEO of Efficient Power Conversion (EPC). EPC is making a possible silicon replacement, gallium nitride (GAN), which is a better conductor of electrons, giving it performance and power-efficiency advantages over silicon, Lidow said. GAN is already being used for power conversion and wireless communications, and could make its way to digital chips someday. “For the first time in 60 years there are valid candidates where it’s about superior material rather than smaller feature size,” Lidow said.

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Network World
April 17, 2015

Adios, silicon: Why exotic designs are the future for the chips in your gadgets

Chip advances have powered one technology revolution after another: PCs, the Internet, smartphones, smartwatches and, soon, self-driving cars. One company betting its future on III-V materials is Efficient Power Conversion, a 34-person startup led by Chief Executive Alex Lidow. EPC already is seeing steady revenue growth from devices that incorporate a III-V layer made of gallium nitride (GaN). In 2016 or 2017 he expects to adapt the gallium nitride manufacturing process to work for the logic circuits that do the thinking in computer processors. Because of gallium nitride's electrical properties, "you immediately get a thousand times potential in improvement" over conventional silicon, he said.

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April 17, 2015

Move over, silicon. Gallium nitride chips are taking over

Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat profiles Alex Lidow. Silicon chips have had a decades-long run as the foundation for modern electronics. But a new kind of chip, based on the compound material gallium nitride (GaN), promises to unseat silicon because it has higher performance, less power consumption, and lower cost.

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April 2, 2015