It is well-known that the basic semiconductor material upon which the two gigantic inter-related sectors; namely, Semiconductors and Electronics lay their foundations is “silicon (Si)” primarily extracted from “silica (silica sand)”. As research scientists and engineers conducted several experiments and carried out extensive research searching for an alternative substrate material in the place of silicon, several new substrate materials such as SiC (Silicon Carbide), SiGe (Silicon Germanium), GaAs (Gallium Arsenide), GaN (Gallium Nitride), Indium Gallium Phosphide (InGaP), and so on were discovered to exhibit similar and more favorable (application wise) properties as compared to pure silicon. Subsequently, during the past decade, GaN material production began on a commercial scale and semiconductor products, devices, and system manufacturers started developing GaN-based semiconductor and electronic devices. GaN was found to have 100 times brighter emission than other materials when used in LEDs and other opto-semiconductor devices, hence GaN was first deployed in the opto semiconductor market.
In the optosemiconductors segment, the first commercial large-scale production of GaN LEDs started in around 2001 when successful processes for using GaN as an epitaxy over silicon and sapphire substrates were developed. Since then, GaN has penetrated deep into the high-brightness and ultra-high brightness LED and lighting industry; with the industry leaders such as Nichia Corporation (U.S.) and OSRAM AG (Germany) launching new GaN opto-semiconductors every year. Most of today’s blue, UV and white LEDs, and similar laser diodes that offer high light intensity and brightness emissions comprise GaN material.
The penetration of GaN was the first in opto-semiconductors in 2001, followed by power semiconductors (merging both, pure-power & RF-power semiconductors) in 2007. Commercialization of GaN power semiconductors (discretes & ICs) started at a medium scale in 2008. While the penetration growth rate is healthy and substantial in opto-semiconductors, the penetration rate in power semiconductors is explosive. One of the prime reasons for this is the growing application areas in the medium-voltage (200 to 1 KV) ranges, where GaN offers unique and unbeatable power efficiency over pure silicon. Another reason is the superior capability offered by GaN to handle high switching frequencies (>1 GHz), particularly for RF-power functions such as power amplification & switching in RF devices.
Today’s world includes numerous suitable power applications for GaN in several application segments, such as power distribution systems, industrial systems, heavy electrical systems, turbines, heavy machinery, advanced industrial control systems, electro-mechanical computing systems, and so on; also inclusive of several new power applications (clean-tech) such as High-Voltage Direct Current (HVDC), Smart Grid Power Systems, Wind Turbines, Wind Power Systems, Solar Power Systems, Electric & Hybrid Electric Vehicles. Another application sector is ICT, with several communication application segments such as RF, RADAR, and Satellite communication offering huge revenue potentials owing to the unbeatable ability of GaN to operate at high-frequency ranges, including microwave frequencies. The potential market size of these massive applications is currently in trillions, making the total addressable market for the GaN power semiconductors worth billions.
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Due to this vast addressable market, the GaN power semiconductors market is quickly gaining pace, several transistors and diodes (& rectifiers) have been in the market since 2008, with extraordinary growth in the volume of power discretes (HEMTs, Diodes & Rectifiers and FETs) boosting the total revenue of the GaN power semiconductors market. Another factor for revenue growth was from GaN power ICs, where new power ICs such as MMICs and RFICs were launched commercially every year by industry players after extensive R&D efforts on developing new technologies to enable the same. The complete GaN power semiconductors industry has shifted to a mass-production scenario in 2011 with the success and revenue potential drawing the focus of several power semiconductor market giants.
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