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The first high performance gallium nitride wafers for mainstream power electronics

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - eleGaNt (The first high performance gallium nitride wafers for mainstream power electronics)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2019-03-31

As the world becomes digitalized and society demands increasingly faster, better and smarter electronic devices, the need for more energy efficient, faster and better performing Electronic Components and Systems (ECS) becomes paramount. These ECS are fully dependent on the semiconductor materials within, currently over 90% silicon (Si)-based. Pure Si technology can no longer cater to the needs placed upon ECS for power electronics and RF applications. Gallium Nitride (GaN) material properties make it the primary choice for future generations of energy-efficient, high performance power electronics devices, necessary to modernize the energy grid and allow for sustainable energy production and use. However, bulk GaN is prohibitively expensive and thus inaccessible to mainstream applications. The main approach to making the technology commercially viable, reducing its cost significantly, is growing GaN layers on other materials, such as Si. Today, this poses a major technical barrier: existing methods result in high defect densities in the GaN layers, offering a fraction of the efficiency of bulk GaN and therefore poor ECS performance. Switching to GaN-on-Si today is therefore not useful. Thus, the market needs a new affordable growth technique that minimizes GaN layer defects, crucially and effectively enhancing the performance of ECS: our EleGaNt technology.
The overall objectives of the EleGaNt project are to optimize our growth methods, in order to reproducibly guarantee bulk GaN performance at the price of GaN-on-Si, affordable to mainstream power and RF electronics applications. This will be achieved by incremental improvements to our growth sequence whilst scaling to 4” wafers. To demonstrate the scalability and integrability of our technology into industrial processes, we will enter joint development programmes with key industry players (i.e. customers) and thus validate EleGaNt in their fabs, whilst together mapping a realistic route towards 6” to 8” wafer manufacture. A key objective will also be the IP protection of our technology through patents and licensing in line with the execution of our commercialisation, communication and dissemination activities.
Technical: a detailed work plan has been developed describing the steps needed to demonstrate the feasibility of the EleGaNt technology on an industrial scale, in an industrial environment and thus ensure its uptake. Potential risks were analysed and mitigation and corrective measures outlined.
Commercial: an analysis of the GaN for power electronics and RF applications market was performed, including an evaluation of our business model assessment of the competitor landscape. This has allowed us to determine a realistic commercialisation and dissemination strategy tailored specifically to the semiconductors market.
IP and Legal: our in-depth analysis of the IP landscape and our IPR strategy showed that the EleGaNt project will not infringe any IPR and we are therefore free to operate globally. Steps towards protecting our IP through licensing agreements have been outlined.
Financial: our costs/benefit analysis and best- to worst-case financial forecasts allowed us to cement a viable business plan, ensuring the profitability and ROI of EleGaNt in the five years following a 2022 market launch.
There are currently no market-available solutions that offer properties superior or equal to those of bulk GaN at a market-affordable price. Increased performance and efficiency in line with minimal environmental impact of ECS is of growing importance to policy makers, society and the economy. For example, society, politicians and businesses already dream of a world beyond 5G, yet full roll out of it is not expected until at least 2020 due to technical challenges. Thus, the market needs to produce affordable high-performing GaN for integration at the start of the value chain as soon as possible. Despite million-euro investments across the industry, only EleGaNt can truly enable this today, thus not only unleashing the forecast multi-billion-euro potential of GaN’s downstream innovations, but also expanding the total available market for GaN technology.