The Cambridge Centre for Gallium Nitrate says that GaN " is probably the most important semiconductor material since silicon. It can be used to emit brilliant light in the form of light emitting diodes (LEDs) and laser diodes, as well as being the key material for next generation high frequency, high power transistors capable of operating at high temperatures."
The material has been used for over twenty years to build light-emitting diodes (LEDs). High-brightness GaN light-emitting diodes completed the range of primary colors, and made applications such as daylight visible full-color LED displays, white LEDs and blue laser devices possible. In consumer electronics such blue LEDs are used to read Blue-ray disks, whence the name.
Gallium Nitrate has a low sensitivity to ionizing radiation, and resists high temperatures. At present the material is used to fabricate power switching semiconductors in addition to LEDs. But as hybrid and fully electric vehicles become more popular, the use of GaN will expand to cover the entire inventory of electronic automotive systems. Manufacturers are currently designing vehicles to be launched onto the market in 2018, coinciding with the timeframe leading forecasters are predicting that gallium nitride semiconductors will attain price parity with silicon devices. This development will overcome the limitations of silicon and tranform power electronics in EHVs.
In 2010 the first enhancement mode gallium nitride transistors became generally available. These devices were designed to replace power MOSFETs in applications where switching speed or power conversion efficiency is critical. These transistors, also called eGaN FETs, are built by growing a thin layer of GaN on top of a standard silicon wafer. This allows the eGaN FETs to maintain costs similar to silicon power MOSFETs, but with the superior electrical performance of GaN.
Julian Styles, Director Business Development USA for GaN Systems Inc., will join speakers from leading players in the EHV industry at the Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Conference & Expo in Michigan 17 - 19 September. Styles will explain the technological advances in semiconductor materials which herald the replacement of traditional silicon in power converters for new generation electric and hybrid vehicles.