The high power electronic devices and the industry have evolved to be a highly dynamic sector, with developments and innovations in materials, technologies, simulation tool, modeling, and applications. The high power electronics technology is the next revolution in the power industry and has set new standards in saving power for virtually everything that makes use of or converts electricity, from making hybrid car practicable, mobile phone battery durable, and facilitating the generation and distribution of energy from various sources ranging from solar wind turbines to nuclear reactors. High power electronics technology comes into play wherever there is a need to modify different forms of electric energy such as current, voltage, and frequency.
Miniaturized High Power Electronics technology is already signaling transformation across industries and is expected to bring changes more significantly in the coming years. Industries are emphasizing on the need for increasing the number of power semiconductor devices and reducing the size of these devices, which in turn demands higher power densities. It can help businesses utilize their assets more efficiently and in an innovative way to bring in new services for the market, resulting in additional revenue streams.
Wideband semiconductors create the magic behind high power electronics applications. Wideband semiconductors are planning to transform different markets and industries by enabling high power electronics applications. By offering low-cost and high-performance power devices, wideband semiconductors are becoming an integral part of different applications ranging from consumer goods, vehicles, household appliances, modernized grids incorporating renewable energy to military systems.
SiC- and GaN-based electronics are emerging in the market, and producers expect that performance improvements and price reduction will accelerate the adoption rate in the coming years. This trend will make Wide Band Gap (WBG) devices capable of meeting its performance goals. Companies involved are Infineon, Fujitsu Semiconductor, Fairchild, Cree, and many more.
Cost of 2-inch bulk GaN wafer is over 1000 USD. To improve the cost-attractiveness, GaN devices have to be produced on highly economic substrates. While expensive GaN substrates are available in 2-inch diameter, 6-inch sapphire and 12-inches silicon substrates provide a viable alternative. Companies such as Efficient Power Conversion Corporation, EpiGaN and many more are involved in manufacturing higher diameter substrate.
There is a need for improved driving techniques for SiC and GaN devices to ensure high reliability and reduce the risk of failures. Ease of integration of new device technologies into power systems is an important factor to ensure the reliability of electricity supply in the Smart Grid as well as to maintain tight control on the network’s performance.
New packaging techniques are required to enable effective power modules based on SiC and GaN. Package designs need to be developed for high-frequency applications and tackle EMI issues. New developments in packaging are important to build a robust ecosystem for SiC and GaN consisting of specialized packaging companies and standardized packaging methods.
High Power Electronic, Electric Vehicle Market Revenue, 2012-2030 ($ M)
According to the 2014 International Energy Agency report, the total number of vehicles in the world is projected to double by 2040. It is one of the fastest growing sectors and consumes more than 30% of the primary energy. Fuel-powered cars along with the electric and hybrid vehicles will drive the market. Car mechanics is also advancing with respect to unmanned vehicles. Against this backdrop, the industry is emphasizing on augmentation of engine platforms globally, reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other pollutants from the vehicles. Energy flow from the battery to the motor and vice versa is controlled with the help of power electronics. It further helps to make the flow as efficient as possible. During vehicle battery recharging, wide band semiconductors will cut the electricity losses by almost 66%.
The rising cost of fuel has led to various consumer end-user segments shying away from traditional gas-guzzling vehicles and moving more towards fuel-efficient vehicles. As a consequence, OEMs have started to focus on improving the performance of the vehicles while reducing the fuel consumption by applying more high power semiconductors into the existing powertrain and engine control systems.
Key focus areas include reducing switching losses (for IGBT) as well as reducing switching on power requirements (for MOSFETs) in automotive environments where losses are induced by high temperature and EMI (electromagnetic interference).
Stringent emission norms along with mileage regulations have resulted in opportunities for power saving chips. For example, the newer SUV and large vehicle segments such as that of the U.S. market, which is more competitive on technology than price. Newer power application along with stringent mileage concerns have resulted in the need for efficient power systems.
Roadmap for High Power Electronics in Automotive
Image Source: Automo
Various features like ABS, LED lighting, power windows, and power steering are now default features for passenger vehicles. All these use power semiconductors and increase the number of semiconductors used in cars. In the developing countries, features like power steering and automatic windows have resulted in significant penetration of power semiconductors. Power semiconductors, especially IGBT, will be the lead offering for this segment. Other newer technologies like SiC are also expected to play a major role in this segment. However, application development will be a critical restraint.
As governmental regulations play a major role in the reduction of carbon dioxide, collaborations with the government-funded organization may fuel the growth of the industry. This reflects the importance of strategic alliances among organizations, government agencies, and universities in further advancing silicon carbide R&D.