The demand for semiconductors is surging beyond production and supply capabilities.
Adding to that, silicon (Si) is reaching the limits of Moore’s law and extracting further efficiency is challenging. Silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN), despite their popularity in the semiconductor space, are not easily accessible and often push the cost limits when developing advanced power electronics components.
Electronics manufacturers seek alternatives to supplement the existing semiconductors in the market and facilitate the efficient development of power electronics components.
Gallium arsenide (GaAs) has emerged as the next best candidate to facilitate manufacturing continuity in the semiconductor space. Though GaAs is conventionally used for producing low-voltage and high-frequency components due to its stability, its use in power electronics wasn’t feasible due to the inability to deposit a low doped epitaxial (EPI) layer on top of the GaAs substrate without substantial defects in the final product.
3-5 Power Electronics (3-5 PE) solves this problem with a first-of-its-kind method of depositing thick GaAs layers on top of GaAs substrates to develop and manufacture power semiconductors for high-voltage and high-current applications. This low-cost, large-scale production of GaAs-based power semiconductors enables clients to achieve higher energy savings, superior performance, and greater reliability.
Avision to stretch the capabilities of GaAs and improve electronics manufacturing economics drives 3-5 PE.
GaAs PIN Diodes for Soft- and Hard- Switching Applications
3-5 PE’s GaAs substrate-based PIN diodes deliver enhanced performance in the voltage range of 400V to 1700V and currents up to 100A per chip at a broad range of temperatures.
“We are producing GaAs-based PIN diodes that offer better performance than SiC or GaN devices in terms of stable operating temperatures, smaller chip size, and 20 percent lower losses at over 40 percent lower component rates,” states Gerhard Bolenz, co-founder and CEO of 3-5 PE.
Semiconductor products manufactured with 3-5 PE’s cost-effective GaAs technology show significantly superior properties, including carrier mobility almost seven times better than Si and ten times better than SiC. GaAs-based diodes are also advantageous in forward voltage (Vf), which is up to 0.5V lower compared to the typical Vf values of SiC. The chip area is smaller, and the current carrying capacity per square millimeter is higher by a factor of up to three.
The GaAs-based PIN diodes bring numerous other benefits. The direct wide band gap (dWBG) diodes, having a direct band gap larger than silicon, are paving the way for components that can act as a switch or a rectifier in high-power electronics, allowing technology developers to explore innovations along this tangent and discover novel applications.
Providing these advantages over conventional power electronics components, 3-5 PE is shifting the attention of the semiconductor market to the potential of GaAs. To facilitate this shift, it provides many small and large manufacturers with PIN diode samples for their semiconductor devices.
3-5 PE’s power-efficient GaAs-based PIN diodes will become the most suitable alternatives for silicon-based PIN diodes as the electronics industry tackles the chip shortage. Seamless compatibility will enable clients to easily switch from Si diodes to GaAs diodes while getting an immediate boost in power efficiency.
Power-Efficient and Cost-Effective SiC Diode Alternatives
3-5 PE matches the supply of GaAs-based PIN diodes with the market demand using a lean operational model and a well-planned logistics chain. Its high-volume fabrication facility can produce and distribute up to several 100k high-voltage GaAs wafers every year, and the capacity can be expanded with equipment and with larger wafer sizes of up to eight inches in the medium term if the demand continues to grow. Compared to semiconductor manufacturers procuring SiC substrates, 3-5 PE’s fabrication houses promise a shorter lead time.
We are producing GaAs-based PIN diodes that offer better performance than SiC or GaN devices in terms of stable operating temperatures, smaller chip size, and 20 percent lower losses at over 30 up to 40 percent lower component rates
Its logistics chain is further augmented by its partner, AZUR SPACE, which assists 3-5 PE in high-volume production and handles logistics and quality checks. The foundry partner takes over all supplementary steps for complete wafer or chip structuring.
“A clear network of partners with the required technical know-how helps us with the development and manufacturing, including the construction of discrete components and simple modules,” says Bolenz.
These competencies enable 3-5 PE to develop GaAs-based semiconductor devices quickly, facilitating high quality and quick delivery.
Meeting the Evolving Semiconductor Application Requirements
3-5 PE’s GaAs-based semiconductors can switch operations and energy transmissions more efficiently and at higher reliability than conventional Si-based systems. They can be predominantly used in power factor correction (PFC) filters within switchgear, solar inverters, switch mode, and uninterruptible power supplies, inverters for electric and hybrid vehicles, and diodes for insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) modules.
Recently, a large player in the power electronics market approached 3-5 PE and sought their diodes for PFC applications in the range of one to five kilowatts. The client wanted good quality, high-performance PIN diodes at low cost. 3-5 PE fulfilled their requirements by replacing their existing SiC diode with a GaAs diode, bringing higher performance at lower prices per the client-led benchmarking analysis.
A European EV charging systems manufacturer achieved similar results. Although the client started with SiC diodes, they planned to switch to GaAs, which allowed them to reduce their losses by 20 percent. Impressed by the results, they transitioned to GaAs permanently and sought large-volume production for their requirements.
A New Paradigm in the Semiconductor Industry
Multiple semiconductor companies with SiC are turning toward GaAs-based diodes due to their greater performance, cost efficiency, and availability. The world’s second most accessible semiconductor material, GaAs solves many problems that hamper the electronics industry post-pandemic.
3-5 PE is also planning to release active transistors into the market, pushing the boundaries of performance, cost-efficiency, and manufacturability of semiconductors.
A clear network of partners with the required technical know-how helps us with the development and manufacturing, including the construction of discrete components and simple modules
Select distribution networks in Asia will enable 3-5 to create an effective feedback loop with end-users. Its partnerships with strategic investors and global manufacturers will help it execute its goals quickly and accelerate the market entry of its upcoming products.
The high-quality semiconductor components with improved performance parameters and affordability will help meet the fast-evolving, digitalised world’s smart power and electrical mobility requirements. 3-5 PE aims to capitalise on these promising opportunities and support its clients in transforming their power electronics applications through its ever-evolving portfolio of GaAs-based semiconductor products.