Power GaN and GaN integrated circuit (IC) technology-based products will allow ST to provide solutions for medium and high-power applications with better efficiency when compared to silicon technologies that use the same topologies, including automotive converters and chargers for hybrid and electric vehicles.
Through their collaboration, ST’s GaN products will be manufactured using TSMC’s revered GaN process technology.
STMicroelectronics headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Image Credit: STMicroelectronics.
Significant Benefits Over Silicon-Based Semiconductors
GaN is a wide bandgap semiconductor material and offers significant benefits when compared to traditional silicon-based semiconductors in power applications.
Some of the most noteworthy benefits include greater energy efficiency at higher power, which leads to a reduction in power losses, and device speeds up to 10 times faster than silicon-based devices. GaN technology also facilitates the design of more compact devices for better form factors.
These robust material characteristics make GaN ideal for use in a broad range of evolving automotive, industrial, telecom, and consumer applications across both 100V and 650V clusters.
“As a leader in both wide bandgap semiconductor technology and in power semiconductors for the demanding automotive and industrial markets, ST sees significant opportunity in accelerating the development and delivery of GaN process technology and bringing power GaN and GaN IC products to the market. TSMC is a trusted foundry partner that can uniquely meet the challenging reliability and roadmap evolution requirements of ST's target customers,” said Marco Monti, president of STMicroelectronics' Automotive and Discrete Group.
A graphic by STMicroelectronics, that is depicting the advantages of gallium nitride for electronics. Image Credit: Maxim Integrated.
Approaches to Wideband Semiconductors for Power Applications
ST is presently backing multiple approaches to wideband semiconductors for power applications. In addition to this new deal with TSMC for GaN power devices, ST is also driving silicon carbide (SiC) for automotive power devices.
The collaboration with TSMC is particularly interesting because ST already has two types of GaN technology in-house; the deal with TSMC adds a third. The first, which ST developed in collaboration with MACOM, is used on 150mm wafers for RF powered devices. The second, developed with CEA-Leti, was developed for 200mm wafers.
“This cooperation complements our existing activities on power GaN undertaken at our site in Tours, France and with CEA-Leti. GaN represents the next major innovation in Power and Smart Power electronics, as well in process technology”, he added.
“We look forward to collaborating with ST and bring the applications of GaN power-electronics to Industrial and Automotive Power Conversion,” said Dr. Kevin Zhang, Vice President of Business Development at TSMC. “TSMC’s leading GaN manufacturing expertise, combined with STMicroelectronics’ product design and automotive-grade qualification capabilities, will deliver great energy efficiency improvement for industrial and automotive power conversion applications that are more eco-friendly and help accelerate the electrification of vehicles.”
ST expects the first samples of power GaN discreet devices to be delivered to key customers later this year, followed by GaN IC products within a few months.
It is worth noting, however, that in March of last year, Monti said that the first GaN power parts using the CEA-Leti process would be available by the end of the year. This has now been delayed until the end of Q1 2020 when engineering samples should be available.