GaN Systems unveils annual power semiconductor predictions for 2023
BY Semiconductor Today
In its annual power semiconductor predictions, GaN Systems Inc of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (a fabless developer of gallium nitride-based power switching semiconductors for power conversion and control applications) reckons that 2023 will be another landmark year for GaN — with the now widely adopted technology forecasted by Yole Intelligence’s ‘Power GaN 2022: Market and Technology Report 2022’ to reach $2bn by 2027, driven by rising adoption across consumer electronics, automotive, data centers, and sustainability initiatives.
The predictions explore the overarching systemic changes underway around the global semiconductor supply chain and sustainability initiatives specific to key power-reliant industries, i.e.
- Supply Chain – The initiation of historic multi-year programs to change where and how semiconductors are fabricated and packaged.
- Sustainability – Motivations for efficiency and conservation will concur with new political imperatives for energy independence. GaN isn’t just a good choice for high-frequency designs. It’s also good for the planet.
- Data Centers – GaN makes new inroads to become the solution of choice as data centers upgrade processors to optimize their ability to address profitability and sustainability goals.
- Electric Vehicles – GaN is integrated into designs for energy-efficient electric vehicles (EVs) and charging stations needed to meet the 2030 goals of auto manufacturers and global governments, businesses, and other organizations that influence the future of the automotive industry and road transport.
- Consumer Electronics – GaN is further entrenched in the mainstream with continuing innovations and new product releases in chargers, audio, appliances, and power tool designs.
“We are at the inflection point for power GaN technology,” believes GaN Systems. “Notwithstanding nearly three years of significant global economic and geopolitical headwinds, the GaN power semiconductor has established itself as a preferred product solution across multiple market segments, including data-center, electric vehicle, industrial, and consumer electronics industries. It has accomplished this by uniquely solving some of the most pressing and critical power systems challenges around energy efficiency and design in these industries,” adds the firm. “With the strong momentum of the electrification megatrend and an increasing number of products containing semiconductors, economic winners and losers will be determined mainly by those who can better manage their supply chains that not only enable the production of existing goods for businesses and consumers – yet stoke the fires of innovation for the near future.”
The predictions are specifically as follows:
Supply Chain: Companies and Governments Embrace Multi-Billion-Dollar Long-Term Plans to Strengthen Global Semiconductor Fabrication and Packaging
- In the past, many companies focused on consolidating manufacturing activities in one or two countries. Looking ahead, the global semiconductor supply chain will work towards developing a substantial US presence in both engineering design and manufacturing. In the USA, this means embracing a national strategic semiconductor policy – rather than politically convenient.
- The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 is expected to catalyze the geographic diversification of the semiconductor industry in the USA during the next four years. The substantial economic muscle in the form of $52.7bn in grants, loans and tax credits will drive investment in design, foundry and fabrication facilities. Large chip manufacturers will receive as much as $2.5-3bn for each new fabrication facility they build in the USA.
- To accelerate next-generation chip design and production, the broad investment program within the European Union (EU) Chips Act will focus on increasing production capacities and improving the ability to identify and respond to the semiconductor supply crises. Above all, the EU Chips Act aims to strengthen Europe’s research and technology leadership, which consists of the capabilities, capacities and controls necessary to act on long-term economic and societal objectives.
- Semiconductor packaging will be addressed in the shorter term, with factory additions in Vietnam and India. A large portion of semiconductor wafer fabrication will remain in Taiwan (68% of all semiconductors and 90% of advanced chips). This will continue to expose the semiconductor industry to regional ‘single source’ vulnerability as fabrication expansion in Europe, Canada and the USA builds out over several years.
Sustainability: The Motivation for Energy Efficiency and Natural Resource Conservation Meets the Political Imperative of Energy Independence
- Sustainability and profitability will be dual drivers of business success. For example, using GaN semiconductors will concurrently increase revenue through greater data density in data centers and mitigate the environmental impact (e.g. meet aggressive ESG goals). Additionally, meeting sustainability metrics for products and operations will be as necessary as meeting performance and cost requirements.
- Pressures will increase for mass rollouts of technology for large-scale renewable energy collection, storage and use. More energy-efficient power inverters, DC-DC converters, and energy-dense storage will be needed in on-demand solar power systems. GaN technology will be at the center of this solution.
- In 2023 and beyond, there will be a natural acceleration of GaN demand to ensure a more sustainable future. The technology has been found to optimize power designs to decrease the carbon footprint of high-frequency devices and systems. GaN is uniquely positioned to enable a greener, more carbon-neutral future for the electronics industry. GaN power semiconductors aim to conserve energy and miniaturize devices by capitalizing on high switching speeds and low ON resistance.
Data Centers – Profitability Meet Sustainability Initiatives in the Move to Greater GaN Technology Adoption
- As data centers refresh hardware every three to five years, compounded with the EU Eco-design Lot 9 efficiency regulatory requirements in effect, there will be a significant opportunity for GaN to replace silicon in both rackmount power supplies and the individual redundant power supplies in servers. This upgrade of servers and build-out of server racks using GaN power supplies will be led by the innovative work from OEMs such as Intel and HP. More server and rack power supply companies will follow, adopting GaN and making GaN ‘the standard’ for the industry.
- New standards from tech giants will accelerate change to higher efficiency and smaller form factors for power supplies. The Open Computer Project (OCP) defines a new standard form factor, M-CRPS, for a server’s power supply that decreases the size by 30%. Legacy transistor technology, namely silicon MOSFETs, will struggle to deliver on this standard while GaN excels here. Additionally, OCP designs, many targeted for hyperscale computing, have increasing demands for very high energy efficiency, a characteristic best delivered by GaN.
- The demands on power supplies will increase the use of GaN: (1) to increase efficiency via its properties of lower switching and conduction losses, (2) to increase power density via operating at higher frequencies than the ability of alternative technologies, and (3) smaller and more highly efﬁcient GaN-based power supplies directly lower a data center’s power bills and indirectly reduce cooling system costs.
Electric Vehicles: Pressures Intensify to Accelerate the Move to EVs from Both the Moral Motivations of Climate Change and the realities of Energy Economics
- Automotive OEMs and their tier 1 suppliers will continue to make decisions about their power transistor choices through the four lenses of performance, reliability, cost and capacity. High-performance GaN solutions in the design stage in 2022-2023 will be mainstream in 2025-2026, delivering lower cost and more energy-efficient power solutions.
- OEMs are increasingly moving into production with GaN, which will accelerate in 2023. GaN semiconductor companies will begin to see their share of EV designs increase as more 400V system designs rise in importance, multi-level GaN solutions for 800V systems are validated, and silicon carbide (SiC) experiences continued material shortages, yield challenges and cost concerns.
Consumer Electronics: GaN Becomes Mainstream in Multiple Consumer Markets
- GaN will increase its share in chargers from the popular 45W and 65W chargers to the growing market for higher-power 100-180W chargers with both single and multiple port variations, delivering ultrafast and multi-device charging experiences to consumers.
- For audio, GaN will enable mainstream brands to fulfill consumers’ mobile and voice-activated lifestyle demands with more compact form factors that deliver the same volume and audio quality of much larger devices.
- New Class D audio systems design will accelerate with the adoption of ‘building blocks’ for GaN products that enable audio systems designers across markets to mix and match designs and maximize performance for their specific applications.
- Growth in new application areas, such as home appliances, large-screen TVs, E-bikes and power tools, will result from companies’ acknowledgment of GaN’s mainstream position and value in consumer electronics and their validation of GaN-based system designs. Innovative GaN-powered products in these markets will hit the consumer market in 2023-2024.
“As global companies continue to face pressure to drive both profitability and sustainability, GaN technology takes on an even higher level of importance,” says GaN Systems’ CEO Jim Witham. “Despite significant global economic and geopolitical headwinds of the last three years, GaN is now recognized as a widely adopted technology estimated to reach $2bn by 2027, driven by rising use in consumer electronics, automotive applications, data centers, and industrial and electric vehicles. As such, companies will continue to accelerate their commitment to greater energy efficiency, and we’ll see profitability and sustainability drive $6bn GaN growth.”