third generation semiconductors, GaN, SiC
Close-up study of the test sample of the transistor microchip under a microscope in the laboratory. Equipment for testing chips. Production automation. Manufacture of chips. Source: Adobe Stock

Third-generation semiconductors will be the key to future semiconductor technologies. After being delayed by the US-China war and the Covid-19 pandemic between 2018 to 2020, the 3rd gen semiconductor segment is likely to enter a rapid upturn owing to resurging demands from automotive, industrial and telecom applications, according to TrendForce’s investigations. 

Tesla has begun adopting STMicroelectronics’ SiC designs for its in-house inverters used in Model 3 vehicles. According to Infineon, the power for the same vehicle can last 4% longer with the SiC designs, since power contributes to a large part of EV’s expense, the automotive industry has started to place increasing importance on 3rd gen semiconductors.

Infineon predicts SiC chip will contribute to a fifth of the automotives’ power electronic components. In the past, saving oil relies on engines, now saving energy depends on the 3rd gen semiconductors.

According to TrendForce, the GaN power device market will undergo the fastest growth, with a $61 million revenue, a 90.6% yearly increase, projected for 2021. 

Taiwanese players are entering this era of new technologies

On the other hand in Taiwan, unlike others turning to Europe for the new techniques, TSMC has spent years diving into this area and started research and development from epitaxy growth. 

Industry observes that TSMC is focusing on the development of GaN on Si. While this technology is limited in communication, it is a competitive component in automotive applications. TSMC revealed in the annual report that 150 and 650 voltage have been developed in 2020. Last February, STMicroelectronics announced a collaboration with TSMC to manufacture automotive compound semiconductors.

In fact, foreign media had pointed out that TSMC had been manufacturing for the Irish IC designer, Navitas, since 2014 on GaN power ICs for consumer electronics. Navitas announced shipping 13 million with zero failures. The Irish company takes up half of the market share in this area indicating TSMC has already taken initiative in the 3rd gen semiconductor technologies.

TSMC made progress in manufacturing GaN devices with 8-inch wafers while 6-inch wafers are still the mainstream for compound semiconductors. Many of TSMC’s retired 8-inch wafer fabs will take on new compound semiconductor productions.

Like TSMC, VIS is also focusing on GaN on Silicon substrate development. VIS president Leuh Fang said the foundry is aiming to build a complete manufacturing process including wafer ultra thinning.

Sino-American Silicon Products Inc. (SAS) is expanding in the 3rd gen semiconductors, last year, the company became AWSC, the compound semiconductor manufacturer’s largest shareholder entering telecom applications. According to Wealth Magazine, its subsidiary Global Wafer is also shaping the 3rd gen semiconductor substrate production, but still needs improvement in yield and cost.

SAS Director, M.K. Lu said, “the 6-inch silicon wafers cost US$20 while a 6-inch SiC wafers cost US$1,500,” he stated the automotive SiC MOSFET will only be popularized until SiC cost is reduced below US$750, “which will take over five years.”

In the 3rd gen semiconductors, western countries are taking the lead. Infineon has developed the SiC technology for over 25 years and is either adopted or evaluated by over 20 carmakers.

China is also largely investing in the field, for example, Huawei has invested in the SiC epitaxy producer, Epiworld.

According to TrendForce, major substrate suppliers, including Cree, II-VI, and STMicroelectronics, are planning to manufacture 8-inch SiC substrates, but the short supply of SiC substrates will unlikely be resolved until 2022. Yearly SiC power device revenue will reach $680 million, a 32% yearly increase, in 2021. 


Sources: WealthMagazine(1),  WealthMagazine(2)

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