Under the silicon domination, the wide bandgap compound semiconductors SiC and GaN have faced huge challenges to enter the market during long time. But in the last two years things have changed drastically for both materials: SiC has made its entry in Tesla’s cars in 2018, while GaN found its way in the Oppo, Samsung, Xiaomi, Realme’s fast chargers in Q4/2019 and Q1/2020. While SiC continues its flight, GaN has only started its bright journey and is evolving very rapidly.
In its Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor for Q1/2020, Yole Développement's team of analysts reports a 16 percent revenue growth in GaN compared to Q4/2019. The analysts announced a market revenue projection of beyond US$ 3 billion for power SiC market by 2025; in parallel, the power GaN industry is showing an impressive growth and is expected to reach beyond US$ 700 million at the end of this period too.
Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market MonitorIn its Compound Semiconductor Quarterly Market Monitor for Q1/2020, the analyst team at Yole Développement notes that the very conservative world of power electronics has changed dramatically.
Gallium Nitride is Really Taking off
Beginning of 2020 has been full of exciting news in GaN power industry in the high volume consumer fast charger market:
- Chinese smartphone OEM Oppo released its luxury flagship model, Reno ACE, integrating “inbox” Super VOOC 65W fast charger using GaN technology.
- Chinese smartphone OEM Xiaomi announced launching 65W rated accessory GaN USB-C fast charger for Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro series, using GaN-on-Silicon devices from Navitas Semiconductor.
- Chinese smartphone OEM Realme announced launching its X50 Pro 5G phone with “inbox” GaN chargers using SuperDart Charger protocol.
- In addition to shipping 45W accessory chargers to Samsung, well established power management company Power Integrations announced also achieving a design win at the OEM for “inbox” 45W fast charger.
“This is only the beginning of power GaN market’s emergence,” asserts Ezgi Dogmus, Technology & Market Analyst at Yole. “GaN has taken an important leap in its challenging course and is expected to also enter other major OEMs’ such as Apple and Huawei fast chargers. In this context, 2020 and 2021 are important years to watch for further market acceptance and the speed of GaN based high power changers’ proliferation.”
How will the GaN industry playground shape?
Historically, GaN power devices were introduced by pioneering start-up companies EPC, Transphorm, GaN Systems, Navitas, Exagan and many more, partnering leading foundries such as TSMC, Episil and X-FAB. Meanwhile, Yole witnessed launch of GaN products from integrated device manufacturers in silicon based discrete and power module industry such as Infineon Technologies, Panasonic (In Q4/2019, Panasonic sold its semiconductor business, including GaN power technology, to Taiwan-based Nuvoton Technology), as well as power management companies such as Texas Instruments, Alpha and Omega Semiconductor and Power Integrations. In fact, the majority of the established players have R&D projects on GaN. Following the entry of GaN devices into high volume fast charger consumer applications, GaN power ecosystem has already started to evolve.
Beginning of 2020 has also been full of new partnerships and acquisition announcements from integrated device manufacturers and start-up companies. “As a leading actor in SiC power market, STMicroelectronics has made major strategic actions showing clearly its ambition for the emerging power GaN market”, details Ahmed Ben Slimane, Technology & Market Analyst from Yole. “Following its entry in the GaN business in Q4/2018, the company desires to strengthen its GaN power portfolio and accelerate its production, through its partnership with the key GaN foundry TSMC and acquisition of majority stakes of Exagan.”
In Q4/2019 and Q1/2020, successful headlines from two pioneering startups, GaN systems and Transphorm, have caught attention. Both companies have announced partnerships and investment for the exciting automotive market. GaN Systems received an investment from SPARX Group Mirai Creation Fund II, including Toyota Motor Corporation, targeting EV/HEV applications
Transphorm announced having completed a reverse merger with Peninsula Acquisition Corp and raising US$ 21 million in a private placement equity financing. In Q1/2020, the company signed a partnership agreement with Italian Tier 1 Magneti Marelli for developing power converters, onboard chargers and inverters for electric and hybrid vehicles. In this context, this partnership represents great opportunity for Transphorm, who already offers AEC qualified GaN devices for the automotive applications.
GaN and SiC power businesses: what’s next?
Now the questions arise: Who will be the next one to announce exciting news? What will be the investment strategy of the players who would like to benefit from the booming GaN power business? How will the GaN supply chain evolve? How to get the biggest piece of the cake in the growing GaN consumer and automotive markets?
The beginning of 2020 shows that this year will be the year of GaN. But SiC is certainly continuing its emergence. Driven mainly by the EV/HEV, EV charging infrastructure, and power supply applications, Yole expects SiC power discrete and modules to play a key role in the upcoming years.