With the acquisition of a majority stake in French gallium nitride innovator Exagan, STMicroelectronics expands beyond silicon carbide.
STMicroelectronics has announced an agreement to acquire a majority stake in French gallium nitride (GaN) innovator Exagan.
Each successive generation of electronic devices demands more power, and the power segment of the industry is moving away from silicon in favor of wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor materials. Over time, ST has created a good market with silicon carbide (SiC), but GaN and SiC currently address different parts of the power IC market. The acquisition of Exagan will help ST Micro cater to different customer requirements in industrial markets.
Exagan is dedicated to accelerating the power-electronics industry’s transition from silicon-based technology to GaN-on-silicon, enabling smaller and more efficient electrical converters. Its GaN power switches are designed for manufacturing in standard 200-mm wafer fabs. GaN technology for power switching applications is primarily based on silicon substrates.
“In addition to its leading position in the power SiC device market, STMicroelectronics has very recently taken important steps in the Power GaN business following the entry of GaN power devices in high volume fast charger applications,” said Ezgi Dogmus, technology & market analyst at Yole Développement. “As announced in Q1-2020, the company strengthens its position and product portfolio in the emerging GaN power market by establishing a partnership with TSMC and acquiring majority stakes of French start-up Exagan, who has a noteworthy patent portfolio and know-how in the GaN SiP solutions for fast charging applications,” Dogmus continued.
Gallium nitride belongs to the family of WBG materials, which include silicon carbide. GaN offers greater efficiency in part because device dimensions are significantly smaller compared to their silicon counterparts.
“GaN is an attractive solution for those who seek to improve efficiency without compromising miniaturization. Power conversion, in general, and automotive applications, in particular, are natural beneficiaries of the large-scale adoption and deployment of GaN,“ said Filippo Di Giovanni, director strategic marketing, innovation and key programs for new materials and power solutions division, Automotive Products Group, STMicroelectronics.
Efficiency is a driving force in all industrial sectors. In electronic systems, efficiency can lead to performance limitations as well as a reduction in service life. Greater efficiency pushes the industry towards greater power density with the possibility of having smaller, lighter, and more reliable products, at the same time eliminating the limits of performance and providing higher power levels in data centers and automotive systems.
“Silicon-based power semiconductors can only guarantee incremental improvements in light of their maturity. Wide bandgap counterparts represented by both SiC (silicon carbide) and GaN (gallium nitride) are cutting-edge and innovative technologies offering substantial and tangible benefits for reducing both losses and energy consumption,” said Filippo Di Giovanni.
GaN products will address a wide variety of applications such as power factor correction and DC/DC converters in servers, telecom and industrial applications, on-board chargers for Electric vehicles and DC-DC converters for automotive applications, as well personal electronics applications like power adaptors.
“We believe that GaN represents a big opportunity for system designers to improve conversion efficiency in a large variety of applications such as power supplies (in all variants) for portable equipment, data centers, chargers and also in Automotive applications where GaN lends itself to be used in OBC (on-board chargers), DC-DC converters and in 48V hybrid vehicles,” said from Filippo Di Giovanni.
GaN will provide higher frequency operation and higher power density than silicon-based transistors. Exagan’s expertise in epitaxy, product development, and application know-how will broaden and accelerate ST’s power GaN roadmap and business for automotive, industrial and consumer applications.