The Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) in Cardiff has been awarded a SMARTCymru (SMART Wales) project through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The funding will support a technical and commercial feasibility study for CSC’s ‘VeGaN’ project to develop a Vertical Gallium Nitride device manufacturing capability within the UK.
The project will use advanced epitaxial growth methods developed by CSC and the device manufacturing expertise of the cluster partners in Wales to develop a voltage-scalable process from 200V to 1200V where the electric field is supported vertically across a GaN drift layer. The project will develop enhancement mode (normally off) GaN trench FET devices built on thick, low-defect epitaxial GaN layers.
Industry analysts Yole Développement forecast that the GaN power market will grow at up to 55% per annum over the next five years, driven by power supply segment, or 93% if adopted for wireless charging in consumer electronics, while the 2018 roadmap report from the UK Automotive Council and Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) identifies Vertical GaN as a more suitable technology for lower voltage, lower power automotive applications. These include On Board Charging (OBC), DC-DC conversion and additional applications where the higher switching speed of GaN. Power transistors using Si and SiC in vertical process architectures such as trench FET and IGBT offer improved performance and power density compared to lateral devices, the same benefits would also apply to GaN. This is a cross cutting technology which addresses emerging automotive markets, ITAR-free defense and space applications as well as broader high temperature, harsh environment opportunities.
The Compound Semiconductor Centre was founded in 2015 as a Joint Venture between Cardiff University and wafer supplier IQE.