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Home » Applications & Technologies » Wide Bandgap Technologies
Applications & Technologies
Wide Bandgap Overview

Emerging wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors hold the potential to revolutionize the electronics world, promising to advance the global industry in much the same way as the invention of the silicon (Si) chip over 50 years ago enabled the modern computer era. The electronic bandgap is what allows semiconductor devices to switch currents on and off to achieve a desired electrical function, and WBG materials, the category of electronic materials in which the bandgap energy exceeds approximately 2 electronvolts (eV), exhibit characteristics and processes that make them superior to Si for many applications. The most mature and developed WBG materials to date are silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN), which possess bandgaps of 3.3 eV and 3.4 eV respectively, whereas Si has a bandgap of 1.1eV. SiC and GaN devices are starting to become more commercially available. Smaller, faster, and more efficient than counterpart Si-based components, these WBG devices also offer greater expected reliability in tougher operating conditions.

Enabling High Power, High Temperature Electronics

Advantages of WBG semiconductors over Si in power electronics include lower losses for higher efficiency, higher switching frequencies for more compact designs, higher operating temperature (far beyond 150° C, the approximate maximum of Si), robustness in harsh environments, and high breakdown voltages. Diverse applications range from industrial functions, such as motor drives and power supplies, to automotive and transportation systems including hybrid and electric vehicles, aircraft, ships, and traction, to wireless communications, military systems, space programs, and clean energy generation from solar inverters and wind turbines.

Wide Bandgap Power Devices

The power electronics industry is ushering in a new era marked by the emerging availability of wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors. With power device innovations in conventional silicon (Si) nearly reaching their theoretical limits and the new WBG materials offering important advantages over Si, the power electronics industry is heralding opportunities previously not thought possible, as well as anticipating significant improvement in existing applications.

Silicon Carbide (SiC) Power Devices are Here

The advantages of SiC over Si for power devices include lower losses for higher efficiency, higher switching frequencies for more compact designs, robustness in harsh environments, and high breakdown voltages. SiC also exhibits significantly higher thermal conductivity than Si, with temperature having little influence on its switching and thermal characteristics. This allows operation of SiC devices in temperatures far beyond 150° C, the maximum operating temperature of Si, as well as a reduction in thermal management requirements for lower cost and smaller form factors.

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Wide Bandgap RF Devices
Wide Bandgap
TriQuint Semiconductor TGS2351-SM DC – 6 GHz High Power SPDT Switch

Silicon-based RF power transistors are reaching limits of power density, breakdown voltage, and operating frequency, thus opening up the opportunity for adoption of wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) in RF signal processing applications. GaN offers key advantages over silicon. The high power density of GaN leads to smaller devices as well as smaller designs due to reduced input and output capacitance requirements, an increase in operational bandwidth, and easier impedance matching. GaN’s high breakdown field allows higher voltage operation and also eases impedance matching. The broadband capability of GaN devices provides coverage for a broad frequency range to support both the application’s center frequency as well as the signal modulation bandwidth. Additional advantages of GaN include lower losses for higher efficiency, and high-temperature operation (in the case of GaN on bulk-GaN substrate).

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Wide Bandgap LEDs
Cree High Power LED
Cree High Power LED

Though light emitting diodes (LEDs) have been available since the 1960’s, high-brightness blue LED products only arrived relatively recently - in the early 1990’s, arising from critical developments with gallium nitride (GaN), a wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor material. The color of an LED is determined by the energy bandgap of the semiconductor, and current blue LEDs are based on GaN and InGaN (indium gallium nitride). When blue LEDs are mixed with red and green LEDs or coated in yellow phosphor, the more popular method, the result is high-intensity white light. The availability of LED-based illumination revolutionized the solid-state (semiconductor based) lighting industry by providing a much higher efficiency and longer lifetime alternative to filament-based incandescent lighting, and a mercury-free alternative to compact fluorescent light bulbs. Energy-saving WBG-based LEDs produce more than 10 times more light per watt, and last 30 times longer than comparable incandescent bulbs. LED makers today offer products with lighting efficiency greater than 150 lumens per watt, with lifetimes of around 40,000 hours. Compare this to the 20 lumens per watt lighting output, and 1000-2000 hours rating of incandescent bulbs and it is easy to envision how LED lighting will gain widespread adoption despite a higher initial purchase cost. Indeed, LED lighting sales is projected to grow massively over the next few years, overtaking sales of incandescent bulbs by year 2018.

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Hittite / Analog Devices HMC1049LP5E
0.3-20GHz LNA

A GaAs MMIC LNA that operates between 0.3 and 20GHz. This LNA provides 15dB of small signal gain, 1.8dB noise figure and output IP3 of 29dBm, while requiring only 70mA from a +7V supply. The P1dB output power of 14.5dBm enables the LNA to function as an LO driver.

Cree GaN HEMTs
High Electron Mobility Transistors

Cree GaN HEMTs offer greater power density and wider bandwidths compared to Si and GaAs transistors. GaN has superior properties, including higher breakdown voltage, higher saturated electron drift velocity and higher thermal conductivity.

NXP High-Performance RF

With NXP RF products, you can design systems to the highest specifications, while retaining potential trade-offs with respect to efficiency, power, ruggedness, consistency and integration levels. A clear industry leader in high-performance RF, NXP annually ships more than 4 billion products.

TriQuint Semiconductor TGA2237 & TGA2237-SM
Wideband Distributed Amplifiers

These Wideband Distributed Amplifiers are fabricated on TriQuint's production 0.25μm GaN on SiC process. The TGA2237 series operates from 0.03 to 2.5GHz and provides 10W of saturated output power with 13dB of large signal gain and greater than 50% power-added efficiency.

MACOM Technology Solutions
MAGX-000035-0150x GaN HEMT Pulsed Power Transistors

Gold metalized Gallium Nitride (GaN) on Silicon Carbide RF Power transistors are suitable for a variety of RF power amplifier applications. These devices use a state-of-the-art wafer fabrication process to offer high gain, efficiency, bandwidth, ruggedness over multiple octave bandwidths for demanding application needs.

ROHM SiC Schottky Barrier Diodes

Having a total capacitive charge (Qc) that is small reduces switching loss and enables high-speed switching operations. In addition, unlike silicon based fast recovery diodes, SiC devices maintain constant characteristics, resulting in better performance.
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