27 Oct 2023 -

Powering the future: the rise of wide-bandgap semiconductors


Power electronics stand at the forefront of revolutionary applications, including electrification and the development of smart grids. As a cornerstone in the industry’s battle against climate change, it champions energy efficiency enhancements, employs innovative materials, and adopts fresh circuitry configurations. This discipline promises a solution to drastically minimise carbon emissions and meet environmental imperatives.

Worldwide, the industrial sector consumes approximately 9,000 terawatt-hours of energy. Imagine the ecological benefit if a mere 1% increase in efficiency within this sector could result in saving 93.6 TWh of energy and slashing 32 million tons of CO2 emissions. That’s precisely what the International Energy Agency posits.

The challenge? Conventional silicon technology, given its inherent physical limitations, cannot fulfil the market’s surging demand for denser power, miniaturisation, and heightened energy-conversion efficiency. Enter wide-bandgap (WBG) materials, specifically silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN). These materials promise considerable advancements in efficiency over their silicon counterparts.

WBG semiconductors, named for the extensive energy required to shift electrons within these materials, present an exciting frontier. For context, while silicon requires 1.1 eV, SiC demands around 3.2 eV, and GaN sits at 3.4 eV. Over recent years, both SiC and GaN technologies have matured immensely, marking their territory as potent, market-ready, eco-friendly alternatives.

GaN’s stellar electron mobility makes it an ideal candidate for applications requiring rapid power switches and high-frequency operations. SiC, on the other hand, can endure substantially greater voltages and temperatures without compromising its performance, owing to its expansive bandgap.

For electric vehicles (EVs), WBG technology emerges as a game-changer. Its superior power efficiency, coupled with its potential to curtail voltage and current losses, spells a future of lighter, smaller motors with enhanced thermal efficiency.

In a comprehensive study, Power Electronics News editor-in-chief, Maurizio Di Paolo Emilio, delved into this realm, spotlighting pivotal companies steering the WBG semiconductor ship. These firms are not only shaping the trajectory of SiC and GaN but also presenting insights into future shifts in power electronics influenced by WBG semiconductor devices. The report meticulously unpacks manufacturing evolutions, pivotal market growth propellants, and hurdles, alongside packaging considerations. The insights presented underscore the pivotal role WBG semiconductors will play in carving a sustainable future.

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