Look & Outlook at PowerGan

(From our « Scientific & Technical Highlights », ed. 2020)

By Philippe Pantigny (CEA-leti), Director of the Nanoelec
PowerGan program

The development of gallium nitride (GaN)- based semiconductors improves the performance and operational reliability of increasingly compact power converters, be it for power delivery of few watts (laptops or desktops) or for applications requiring few kilowatts (power supply for computer servers
or powered mobility). These gains are essential in meeting the challenges of energy transition. For example, in the “connected devices and small electrical devices” market segment, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts a world electricity demand of approximately 1,000 TWh/year by 2040. A 1% gain in the energy efficiency of products in this market segment would reduce this demand by 10 TWh, which is equivalent to the annual production of around 20 nuclear power plants.

Given its promising electronic properties for energy conversion, GaN power electronics innovations has been thriving all around the world and it is now a very competitive domain. Teams brought together through the PowerGan program are contributing to the development of GaN on silicon (GaN/Si) technologies in order to overcome the technical and economic limitations of current power component technologies available in silicon and gallium nitride for the 100-650 V segment.

POWERGAN’s aim is to strengthen and structure a national ecosystem of industry and academia in order for stakeholders from French and European industry to gain a foothold in markets in different sectors, ranging from individual electronic equipment to electrification of private and mass transport.

Launched in 2017, the programme is based on a disruptive technology on 200 mm wafers compatible with mass production. This technology transfer is at the heart of the GaN/Si pilot line that STMicroelectronics is implementing in its factory in Tours France. We are improving the performance and reliability of a first generation of 650 V components and
preparing for the next generations. In order to further drive the miniaturization of systems, we are working on the architectures of disruptive converters. We are also developing tools and methods to co-design component and system architectures to accelerate technological adoption, especially for harsh environments such as automotive applications.

These objectives require a multidisciplinary and multi-partner research strategy. Nanoelec is particularly well suited to accelerating the removal the barriers between devices and systems. The results obtained in mid-2019 for GaN diodes and at the end of 2019 for GaN transistors will enable us to launch new collaborations in 2020. We mainly target collaborations
with industry and technological research institutes (IRT) and institutes for energy transition (ITE) in fields such as aeronautics and space, photovoltaics and mobility, and from smartphones to heavy-load transportation.

Dowload the full document « Scientific & Technical Highlights @ Nanoelec », ed. 2020)