Gallium nitride (GaN) is bandgap semiconductor (binary III-V direct) normally used in light emitting diodes. It has wide-band gap of 3.4 electron volts (eV). GaN offers high electron mobility, very high breakdown voltages, and saturation velocity. It is ideal for high-temperature and high-power microwave applications such as high-voltage switching devices for power grids and RF power amplifiers at microwave frequencies. GaN materials have high breakdown field, which permits the GaN device to function at higher voltages compared to other semiconductor devices.
GaN technology offers several advantages including higher operating temperature, higher operating voltage, higher power density, crack-resistant, and durable material among others. GaN are now finding widespread applications in commercial sectors. GaN is now used for low-frequency L, C and S-band RF applications including power management and cable TV. Currently, solution that employs GaN-based RF transistors is replacing the magnetrons used in microwave ovens. GaN-based devices were affordable only for military applications including high security communications systems, radar and development of electronic warfare. However, improvements in yield and material, lower-cost substrates and expansion of wafers have reduced costs of GaN-based devices. Some of the companies that use GaN technology are Avago, Cree, RF Micro Devices, Efficient Power Conversion (EPC) and Toshiba Corporation.
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GaN is comparatively new technology compared to other semiconductors including GaAs and Si. It has become preferred technology for high RF, and applications that requires high end power levels (such as base transceiver stations, radar, satellite electronic warfare and communications) and high power to transmit signals over long distances. It offers special properties for applications in high- high-frequency and power devices and optoelectronics.
GaN technology primarily focuses on millimeter-wave power and microwave amplifiers. Individual amplifiers can attain power levels upto tens of watts. In other parallel or push, pull or Doherty configurations, power levels of 100 to 1000 watts can be achieved using GaN technology. GaN technology is widely used in military applications associated with satellite power amplifier and phased array radar modules. GaN power amplifiers are now finding their use in cellular base station. GaN semiconductor industry involves several players such as raw material vendors, fabless and IP vendors, EDA and design tool vendors, foundry suppliers, fab vendors, integrated devices manufacturers, original devices manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers, assembly, testing, and packaging players and wafer equipment manufacturers among others.
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GaN-on-SiC approach use superior thermal conductivity and low RF losses of SiC and high power density of GaN material. This combination offers poorer thermal performance and higher RF losses. However, GaN-on-SiC is a cost-effective approach and used in price-sensitive power electronics applications. The requirement for high power in the very high frequency (VHF), microwave and ultra high frequency (UHF) bands has led to development of transistors that can supply 10 to 100 watts at radio frequencies to 10 GHz. These devices are manufactured using GaN materials. RF semiconductor devices market requires devices to handle different specifications at affordable price. GaN material with higher power, better linearity, more frequency bands and improved efficiency are driving current developments in the RF semiconductor devices market.
Some of the major players in RF GaN technology market include Fujitsu Ltd., WIN Semiconductors, GaN Systems Inc., NGK Insulators, Freescale Semiconductors Incorporated, Sumitomo Electric Devices Innovation, Covalent Materials,International Rectifier Corporation, Suzhou Jiangzhan Semiconductor,and RF Micro Devices Inc among others.