TSMC has expressed optimism toward the market potential of compound semiconductors, such as silicon carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN).
In Taiwan, the growing prevalence of electric vehicles (EVs) and 5G has recently drawn the attention of semiconductor industry, recognising its strategic potential to enable higher frequency and higher voltage applications. The growing competition from Chinese semiconductor industry, which prioritizes compound semiconductors as a chance to leapfrog the West, only hastens Taiwan’s pace to develop this particular sector.
Lately, the world’s largest electronics contract manufacturer, Foxconn, has just made its ambition known to lead in SiC semiconductors. Likewise, TSMC sees compound semiconductor’s growth opportunity in the coming ten years, especially in their applications in five sectors: EV fast chargers, data centres, photovoltaic inverters, 48V DC/DC Inverters, and EV on-board chargers.
As early as 20 years ago, TSMC already started looking into power management technologies, especially Bipolar CMOS DMOS (BCD) process technology. It also was the first foundry to adopt 30mm wafer production for the BCD process.
With GaN’s higher electron mobility over SiC and Si, its capability to deliver faster charging speed makes it a preference of TSMC.
In 2014, TSMC started manufacturing GaN components in its 6-inch wafer fab, and in 2015 it began to produce GaN components for low and high-voltage applications. Leveraging its leadership in manufacturing silicon-based semiconductors, TSMC started to volume produce GaN-on-Si components in 2017.
From 2020 on, TSMC and STMicroelectronics, a pioneer in the field, have also begun to cooperate on GaN products.
According to TSMC, its current capacity for mature process nodes will be upgraded into speciality processes, in order to support the growing share of compound semiconductors in TSMC’s production plan.