Research for GaN technologies, devices and applications to address the challenges of the future GaN roadmap
The highly ambitious ECSEL project UltimateGaN consists of 26 partners from 9 European countries that strive to achieve significant improvement in digitising the European industry by means of GaN Electronic Components and Systems being used in applications, information highways and data centres in order to overcome the challenges of today’s society.
Digitalisation and its underlying key technologies are an essential part of the answers to many of today’s daunting challenges. Information highways and data centres are the “backbone” of the entire digitalisation and electrical Energy is the essential resource powering them (about 900 TWh were published for the “Internet” demand of 2012). Because of the increasing demand for data -traffic, -storage and –processing (average yearly increase of about 7%), higher energy efficiency of the energy management “backbone” is mandatory. These efficiency gains are also of a high value for energy conversion for renewables and mobility. Whenever silicon based semiconductors devices reach their limits, Gallium Nitride (GaN) based power semiconductors are promising candidates enabling much higher switching frequencies together with highest energy conversion efficiencies.
Several FP7 and H2020 projects, among them the ECSEL pilot-line project “PowerBase” have proven these assumptions and serve as the basis for the availability of the first generation of European GaN-devices. Also the ability to achieve more efficient and more compact applications by the use of GaN devices could be proven. But these projects also made clearly evident, that the challenges of the GaN technologies have been heavily underestimated. This results in a still very high potential of the GaN material system that waits to be explored leading to the necessity that the established IA pilot-line triggers a subsequent RIA-project.
The economic necessity of making devices smaller while being even more reliable in every generation leads to severe upcoming challenges which demand fundamental research activities:
- Higher electric fields (Drift phenomena impacting lifetime)
- Higher current densities (Electro-migration impacting lifetime)
- Higher power densities (Thermal issues limiting the compactness potential)
All these challenges are forming a “red brick wall” for the next GaN on Silicon technology generations and hamper shrinking of GaN devices which is necessary to improve the affordability of GaN-devices to introduce the outstanding performance of this material system into a wider range of applications. Beside the technical performance a distinct focus at next GaN on Si technology generations must be put on enhancing the cost competitiveness (in comparison to GaN on other substrates e.g. SiC), thus enabling higher volume as a base for economy of scale (leaving the vicious circle cost volume). This would multiply the effects of the energy saving capabilities of GaN-products.
Duration: May 2019 – April 2022
Total Costs: ~ € 48 Mio.
EC-Contribution: ~ € 14 Mio.
Total Person Months: 3846
Consortium: 26 partners from 9 countries
Coordinator: Infineon Technologies Austria AG
UltimateGaN is designed to provide solutions for some of the major societal challenges in the fields of digitalisation, energy efficiency and mobility of the future. The early availability of affordable, reliable GaN semiconductors will heavily impact:
Digitalisation in Europe and worldwide through opportunities created by ultra-high speed 5G communication that are directly depending on the affordable excellent performance of GaN devices to enable a broad variety of applications.
Efficient usage of energy by providing high performance GaN components for efficient energy usage in data centers and power converters in applications like telecommunication and photovoltaic.
Future mobility scenarios enabling electrification of vehicles by innovative battery charging concepts realized with GaN. Novel driving scenarios with emphasizing the steps necessary to reach the next level in autonomous driving through ultra-fast switching sensor applications (LIDAR, RADAR) with GaN based sensor systems.