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CMOS finds its match: GaN ignites shift in power

Posted: 02 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:GaN? CMOS? wireless charging? MOSFET? Rezence?

Speaking from an industry perspective, technologies only exist for as long as they yield the benefits and capabilities that promise man a certain advantage. That said, mainstream silicon CMOS technology has afforded the industry immeasurable gains that it has thoroughly benefitted from.

The question now is this. Is the sun shining down on CMOS ready to set? An emerging class of GaN power chips is finally knocking down the final cost barriers to their adoption. The chips will enable a wide range of applications from wireless charging to autonomous vehicles and more efficient cellular communications, according to a DesignCon keynoter.

Alex Lidow

Lidow: All of EPC's products will be lower in cost than silicon rivals in 2016.

"The apps are so numerous I could list them for half an hour," said Alex Lidow, CEO and co-founder of Efficient Power Conversion Corp. (EPC). "Many of our products today are already lower [in] cost than [rival] silicon power MOSFETs, and we are already moving quickly down the cost curve," he said.

Higher cost of epitaxial process makes EPC's largest products more expensive than rivals. However, that cost will get shaved by next year, he said, noting all EPC's products will be lower in cost than silicon rivals in 2016.

The fast switch EPC gets on its proprietary GaN process allows significantly higher efficiency than today's silicon parts. The fact that the devices do not require a package adds to their prowess, something that happened almost by accident.

"When we were starting the company, I went to all the big packaging suppliers but they didn't want to deal with us because we were so small, so I said, 'to hell with it,' and we got rid of the package," he noted.

GaN chips can switch 5-8x faster than silicon MOSFETs

Figure 1: The 4th generation family of GaN transistors reduces hard switching Figure of Merit (FOM) by 5x, 8x and 4.8x, respectively for 200V, 100V and 40V devices when compared to the best Si power MOSFETs.

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