High Growth Potential of GaN Devices in Radio Frequency Applications

The introduction of silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) is slowing down the usage of silicon in radio frequency (RF) applications, LED (light emitting diodes) lighting, and optoelectronics. In the global wide band gap (WBG) semiconductor market, revenues of SiC- and GaN-based semiconductors are estimated to reach ~US$ 1.5 billion and ~US$ 1.2 billion, respectively, by 2027 – the highest amongst all materials.

Due to the high growth potential of SiC and GaN-based wide band gap semiconductors, manufacturers are increasing their usage in radio frequency applications. Manufacturers in the wide band gap semiconductor landscape are benefitting from the increased usage of smartphones and tablets.

New trends such as increased online streaming of videos has doubled the number of mobile device users, which has led to increased data usage. Hence, manufacturers are heavily using SiC and GaN based semiconductors in high-performance wireless and telecommunications systems to manage the increased load of traffic in data usage. GaN semiconductors devices are being increasingly used to support operational bandwidth, since they facilitate higher voltage operation and ease impedance matching.

wide band gap semiconductor marke infographic

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Incremental Opportunities in Optoelectronics and LED Lighting

The favorable growth projection of the LED lighting market is creating incremental opportunities for manufacturers in the wide band gap semiconductor (WBGS) ecosystem. Despite high initial cost to set up a business for LED lighting, stakeholders in the LED lighting landscape are using GaN-based wide band gap semiconductors to achieve high efficiency, durability, and environmental-friendliness in LED lighting. These key attributes help stakeholders in the LED lighting landscape efficiently recover earlier-invested initial costs, and serves as a win-win situation even for manufacturers in the wide band gap semiconductor market.

Manufacturers in the WBGS landscape are also increasing their production capabilities for LED lighting. Efficacious energy savings and longer lifetimes of LED lighting serve as efficient options for consumers. This is why LED lighting sales are expected to surpass traditional filament-based incandescent lightings in the coming years. LED lighting also poses as a potential threat to CFL (compact fluorescent light) bulbs, as the former serves as a mercury-free alternative to the latter.

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SiC V/S GaN Semiconductors: Which is the Better Option?

Although SiC-based wide band gap semiconductors have a larger market share in terms of value, GaN-based wide ban gap semiconductors serve as a more cost-effective alternative for various high power and high temperature applications. As such, GaN-based semiconductors are newly introduced in the market, and are hence integrated with SiC substrates to develop a complete homogenous substrate. This homogenous substrate is also used as an alternative to conventional silicon-based wide band gap semiconductors to lower costs.

These homogenous substrates help reduce costs, but the mismatch in the substrate tends to lower GaN’s thermal conductivity as compared to the conductivity of silicon-based semiconductors. Since the development of new materials for low power and low voltage applications is still in its infancy stage, stakeholders in the semiconductor landscape rely on silicon over SiC or GaN. As such, manufacturers in the wide band gap semiconductor landscape are increasing SiC and GaN applications in high frequency regulations for energy and power devices, to boost sales.

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Wide Band Gap Semiconductors: Definition/Overview

  • The use of wide band gap (WBG) semiconductors makes power electronics components smaller, quicker, and more reliable and efficient than their silicon (Si)-based counterparts. Wide band gap (WBG) semiconductors have the capability to operate at higher temperatures, voltages, and switching frequencies with better efficiency as compared to Si-based devices available in the marketplace.
  • The high demand for wide band gap semiconductors for use in different commercial and industrial applications, such as power supply, PV inverters, and motor drives, is projected to boost the global WBG semiconductor market during the forecast period. WBG materials are already used in large, high-efficiency data centers. Moreover, they have the potential to be used as compact power supplies in consumer electronic applications.

Global Wide Band Gap Semiconductor Market: Regional Overview

  • Asia Pacific is expected to hold the maximum share of the global wide band gap semiconductor market during the forecast period, due to the early adoption of wide band gap semiconductors in the region. China and Japan are expected to remain the major contributors to the Asia Pacific wide band gap semiconductor market. The overall power semiconductor market is expanding at a rapid pace in countries such as China, Japan, and India for meeting the growing local demand. Therefore, these countries are expected to be the potential markets for wide band gap semiconductors in the near future.
  • South America and Middle East & Africa hold minor market shares. However, these regions are projected to provide lucrative opportunities to wide band gap semiconductor manufacturers during the forecast period.
  • Wide band gap semiconductors can dramatically improve hardware reliability along with the energy consumption of most electric and electronic devices. In addition, major applications for WBG semiconductors include high temperature operated electronics, solid state lighting, and high power components, among others. Thus, the requirement of UV sensors, LEDs suitable for general lighting, and SiC & GaN transistors across different part of the globe is projected to boost the growth of the wide band gap semiconductor market during the forecast period.
  • Asia Pacific is anticipated to maintain its dominant position in the global wide band gap market during the forecast period. This is primarily due to the increase in the demand for energy-efficient semiconductor devices in end-use industries such as automotive, IT & telecommunications, and consumer electronics in the region, and rise in government funding for R&D of innovative WBG materials in China and Japan.

Global Wide Band Gap Semiconductor Market: Trends

  • The global wide band gap semiconductor market has been expanding at a steady pace over the past decade, owing to the rise in the demand for high band gap semiconductors for the manufacturing of different types of PV motors and converters, and inverters, worldwide. Technological advancements and need for light emitting diodes and sensors are fueling the growth of the global wide band gap semiconductor market.
  • Increase in the number of energy saving semiconductor substrates will fuel the requirement for wide band gap semiconductors, globally. The high growth of communication networks and services is resulting in the increased demand for telecommunication equipment. Moreover, the need for new data centers and growing adoption of electric vehicles are projected to propel the demand for wide band gap semiconductors in the near future.
  • Widespread integration of WBG semiconductor converters and inverters offers substantial energy saving opportunities, which is expected to increase the adoption of WBG semiconductors in the near future.

Wide Band Gap Semiconductor Market: Drivers, Opportunities, and Restraints

  • Wide band gap semiconductors provide an alternative approach to achieve major breakthroughs in the field of power electronics. Rise in investments and growth in the adoption of wide band gap semiconductors in the power semiconductor industry are anticipated to boost the global wide band gap semiconductor market during the forecast period.
  • Electric vehicle manufacturers are adopting wide band gap semiconductors for the manufacturing of different automobile components such as HV-LV DC-DC converters, driver ICs, onboard chargers, motor drives, and charging equipment. This factor is expected to drive the wide band gap semiconductor market during the forecast period.
  • The overall sales of WBG semiconductors have been low due to several unresolved issues related to raw material availability, cost, and production of semiconductors, among others. This factor is anticipated to restrain the expansion of the wide band gap semiconductor market in the near future.

Wide Band Gap Semiconductor Market: Segment Analysis

The global wide band gap semiconductor market has been segmented based on material, application, end-use industry, and region.

  • By Material
    • In terms of material, the global wide band gap semiconductor market can be segregated into silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride (GaN), diamond, and others.
    • SiC was the dominant material segment of the global wide band gap semiconductor market in 2018.
    • WBG materials are already used in data centers and compact power supplies for consumer electronics. The growing awareness for WBG semiconductors in consumer electronics is projected to fuel the growth of the global wide band gap semiconductor market during the forecast period.
  • By Application
    • Based on application, the global wide band gap semiconductor market can be segmented into hybrid/electric vehicles, PV inverters, railway traction, wind turbines, power supplies, motor drives, UPS, and others.
    • Regulatory concerns to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, along with rise in investments to establish renewable sources, would positively influence the adoption of photovoltaic inverters (PV), which, in turn, will boost the growth of the global wide band gap semiconductor market during the forecast period.
  • By End-use Industry
    • On the basis of end-use industry, the global wide band gap semiconductor market can be classified into automotive, aerospace & defense, IT & consumers, energy & utility, and others.
    • The energy & utility segment dominates the global wide band gap semiconductor market, and is projected to continue its dominance during the forecast period.
    • High growth of communication networks and services is resulting in increase in the demand for telecommunication equipment. Moreover, the requirement for new data centers and growing adoption of hybrid/electric vehicles are projected to propel the demand for wide band gap semiconductors in the near future.

Wide Band Gap Semiconductor Market: Competition Dynamics

  • Attracted by growth of the global wide band gap semiconductor market and the underlying latent demand for wide band gap semiconductors, several players operating in the global wide band gap semiconductor market are expanding their businesses through new product developments, strategic mergers & acquisitions, and partnerships.
  • ROHM Semiconductor is a leading manufacturer of wide band gap semiconductors (SiC and GaN). It has started a mass production of SiC power components, such as SiC Schottky diodes and SiC planer MOSFETs since 2010. In February 2019, the company announced plans to upgrade its existing production facility for WBG semiconductors with the help of advanced machines.
  • In August 2019, ON Semiconductor announced the introduction of a wide band gap silicon-carbon MOSFET in its product line. The company expects that the new product would witness high demand in the next few years due to rise in demand for WBG semiconductors for use in applications such as automotive electric systems and electric vehicles.
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