Fraunhofer IAF at PCIM Europe 2024 in Nuremberg

1200 V GaN HEMTs for the energy transition

Press release /

Powerful and energy-efficient electronic components are key to the energy transition. They contribute to making applications such as electromobility, or electronic air conditioning technologies viable for everyday use across the board. Fraunhofer IAF is supporting this transformation by developing novel technologies for lateral and vertical GaN transistors with blocking voltages above 1200 V. The institute will present the advantages and the current state of development of their GaN technologies at PCIM Europe 2024 from June 11 to 13, 2024 in Nuremberg.

Electric vehicles, converters for charging infrastructure, energy storage systems, solar and wind power plants or new types of heat pumps — key technologies for the energy transition rely on electronic components that achieve both high performance and high efficiency. Semiconductors with a large band gap play a key role in the development of such components, as they function with lower losses, block higher voltages and can withstand higher temperatures than components based on the semiconductor silicon (Si). The Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF uses the power semiconductor gallium nitride (GaN) to develop innovative transistors and integrated power circuits (GaN power ICs) with high performance and high integration density for power electronic applications.

“The energy transition is not only necessary to maintain our quality of life, but it is also an opportunity to secure Europe’s economic strength through future technologies in the areas of mobility and the energy industry. Efficient, powerful and cost-effective semiconductor components are the key components of this transformation,” explains Dr. Richard Reiner, scientist in the business unit Power Electronics at Fraunhofer IAF.

Researchers at the institute are currently working on the realization of GaN-based HEMT technologies with blocking voltages up to and above 1200 V, which can be used for numerous CO2 reduction measures as part of the energy transition, such as bidirectional charging of electric vehicles. GaN HEMTs are intended to provide an alternative to already available metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) made of silicon carbide (SiC), which are very cost-intensive and therefore not suitable for widespread use. Fraunhofer IAF is pursuing several approaches for this purpose: the processing of GaN HEMTs on Si substrates (GaN-on-Si HEMTs), the use of highly insulating carrier substrates such as sapphire, SiC or also GaN (GaN-on-insulator HEMTs) and the development of vertical GaN technologies.

GaN-on-Si wafer comprising vertical components, developed by Fraunhofer IAF
© Fraunhofer IAF
GaN-on-Si wafer comprising vertical components, developed by Fraunhofer IAF

GaN-on-Si HEMTs, GaN-on-insulator HEMTs and vertical GaN HEMTs for high-voltage applications

All approaches enable high-performance, efficient and cost-effective high-voltage GaN components with great application potential in key technological areas of the energy transition. Lateral GaN-on-Si HEMTs are already commercially available, but are limited to a blocking voltage of 650 V due to limited GaN layer thicknesses. By continuously optimizing the material and its processing (epitaxy, processing, structuring), researchers at Fraunhofer IAF were able to demonstrate GaN-on-Si HEMTs with static blocking voltages of over 1200 V. In addition, the power components were switched up to 1100 V in an application-oriented measuring stand (double-pulse measurements).

In the second approach, the researchers replace the conductive Si with highly insulating carrier substrates such as sapphire, SiC or GaN, which virtually eliminates the voltage limit. Lateral GaN-on-sapphire HEMTs can be manufactured cost-effectively based on relevant preliminary work for light-emitting diode applications and can be produced in existing production lines.

Vertical GaN technologies, in which the current flow runs vertically through the material layers, enable even greater performance with higher efficiency and integration capability at the same time. Within the next decade, the researchers at Fraunhofer IAF want to make vertical GaN power ICs suitable for industrial use. The aim is also to help shape the next technological leap in the transformation towards a climate-neutral society.

More about 1200 V GaN HEMTs at PCIM Europe 2024

Dr. Richard Reiner will provide an overview of the development of lateral and vertical GaN power ICs in his presentation “Lateral and Vertical GaN Power ICs: Status and Future”, which he will give on June 12 at 10:50 a.m. at PCIM Europe on the Technology Stage in Hall 7.

Dr. Richard Reiner will also provide an insight into the various lateral 1200 V GaN technologies in his presentation “More than 1200 V Breakdown and Low Area-Specific On-State Resistances by Progress in Lateral GaN-on-Si and GaN-on-Insulator Technologies”, which will take place on June 12 at 14:50 on Stage Brussels 2 in the “Device Concepts” session.

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Stefan Mönch will also represent Fraunhofer IAF at PCIM Europe with a presentation on June 11 at 14:50 on Stage Brussels 1 in the session “GaN Converters”: “Over 99.7 % Efficient GaN-Based 6-Level Capacitive-Load Power Converter”.

All presentations at a glance

  • Jun.-Prof. Dr. Stefan Mönch: “Over 99.7 % Efficient GaN-Based 6-Level Capacitive-Load Power Converter” (June 11, 14:50, Stage Brussels 1, Session “GaN Converters”)
  • Dr. Richard Reiner: “Lateral and Vertical GaN Power ICs: Status and Future” (June 12, 10:50 a.m., Technology Stage, Hall 7)
  • Dr. Richard Reiner: “More than 1200 V Breakdown and Low Area-Specific On-State Resistances by Progress in Lateral GaN-on-Si and GaN-on-Insulator Technologies” (June 12, 14:50, Stage Brussels 2, Session “Device Concepts”)

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