£1.3M project award to UK Gallium Nitride power consortium

A consortium led by the Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC) has been awarded funding through ‘The road to zero emission vehicles’ competition sponsored by OLEV (the Office for Low Emission Vehicles). CSC leads a consortium of partners across the power electronics supply chain: SPTS Technologies, Newport Wafer Fab, Turbo Power Systems Ltd and the Compound Semiconductor Applications (CSA) Catapult, supplemented with academic expertise in power systems and devices; Swansea University and Coventry University.

The GaNTT (Realisation of a mass-manufacturable Vertical GaN Trench FET architecture) project will develop a voltage-scalable, vertical GaN process platform (200V - 600V) suitable for electric vehicle applications and integrate the resulting device into an on-vehicle demonstrator for bi-directional battery charging. Vertical GaN architectures are a viable future technology for low to medium voltage and power applications e.g. On Board Charging (OBC) and DC-DC applications where higher switching speed is desirable. It also has the potential to meet the cost challenges related to current SiC FET technologies, though significant challenges in epitaxial material layer quality and device thermal management require de-risking.

The project will focus on development of large diameter substrate solutions that provide high quality, thick GaN layers and address the challenges of lattice mismatch and wafer bow by employing novel epitaxial substrate solutions for future foundry products. Vertical GaN devices architectures enable FET operation at high electric fields and thus facilitates a significant reduction in chip area compared to lateral power devices. The breakdown voltage can be increased by increasing the thickness of the epitaxial drift region supporting the electric field enabling the voltage to be scaled independently of chip area. The device approach also incorporates an innovative Source-metal/P-body Schottky contact approach, patented by researchers from Swansea and Coventry Universities, to provide better control and stability of the channel threshold voltage.

Crucially, this project will evaluate prototype devices at packaged device and sub-system level, with Turbo Power Systems providing a Tier 1 automotive testing environment. The activity will establish a ‘materials to system’ UK supply chain in wide band gap materials and enhances exploitation opportunities for all partners by ensuring that device development is driven by automotive requirements. The performance benefits of this new platform technology are not limited to automotive applications, but are also highly suitable for use in other harsh environments, eg Space applications where the combination of improved power density and radiation-hardness would reduce payload and improve system reliability.

Robert Harper, GaN Programme Manager at CSC commented “Vertical GaN Power Technology will deliver emerging opportunities across a broad applications space, currently growing at >50% CAGR and forecast to be worth >$150-300M by 2023. This activity will build on UK strengths in compound semiconductor materials and device technology to energise a new supply chain in automotive power component supply”.

About

About the Compound Semiconductor Centre (CSC)
The Compound Semiconductor Centre was founded in 2015 as a Joint Venture between Cardiff University and IQE Plc, with the mission of accelerating commercialisation of Compound Semiconductor Materials and Device Research and realising a tangible economic return on the UK investment in this key area of enabling technology. Based in Cardiff, the Centre is a vital milestone towards developing a World-class Compound Semiconductor Technology cluster in South Wales.

About Swansea University
The Centre for NanoHealth (CNH) facility at Swansea University is a multidisciplinary RTD centre driving innovations in healthcare and other nano & micro technology enabled applications. The £10M open access centre, which opened in 2012, has delivered over a hundred collaborative research and development projects. The facility is fully equipped for semiconductor device & MEMS fabrication, and specialises in design & fabrication of sensors & devices and niche areas of process development.

About Coventry University
The Centre for Advanced Low-carbon Propulsion Systems (C-ALPS) of the Institute for Future Transport and Cities at Coventry University is a £50M unique world-class research facility for power electronics, electric vehicle battery storage and advanced electric machine research. The centre was opened in April 2019 as a result of a strategic partnership between Coventry University and FEV, the international leader in design and development of advanced powertrains and vehicle systems. C-ALPS was designed and built to be the most advanced test facility of its kind in the UK.

About Newport Wafer Fab Ltd
Newport Wafer Fab is a high volume 200mm wafer fab, with production capacity providing capability from 0.18µm and above, with over 30 years of experience of fabricating world class world class, high end silicon devices. We have a complete tool line, advanced process controls and a highly skilled, experienced team of over 450 staff located in the United Kingdom’s largest semiconductor centre. NWF transfers MOSFET / TIGBT / Silicon Photonics and CS processes and can develop derivatives processes and devices from initial concept/design stage through production. NWF has major expansion plans to create a flexible Compound Semiconductor (CS) fabrication facility in association with its CS cluster partners.

About Turbo Power Systems Ltd
Operating for over 45 years, Turbo Power Systems develop power conversion solutions, including power electronic converters and electrical machines, for multiple market sectors including transportation, industrial and energy. Based in Gateshead UK, TPS are at the forefront of integrating wide band gap semiconductors into its power products to drive more lightweight, quiet and efficient solutions for existing and future market deployment.

About SPTS Technologies Ltd
SPTS Technologies (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Orbotech) designs, manufactures and markets wafer processing solutions for the global semiconductor and related industries. It provides etch and deposition processes on a range of single wafer handling platforms for wafer sizes up to 330mm, as well as 400mm taped frame assemblies. These products include etch and deposition equipment designed to facilitate the advanced packaging of semiconductors and to provide advanced wafer processing technologies for the micro-electronics industry. End-market applications include Advanced Packaging, MEMS, LEDs, high speed RF ICs and power semiconductors. SPTS’s technology and products are used by universities, research institutes, and full scale production companies in advanced packaging, MEMS and sensors, power semiconductors, high speed RF ICs, and LED manufacturing.

About the CSA Catapult
The Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult is a Not for Profit organisation headquartered in South Wales.  It is focused on accelerating the adoption of compound semiconductors and on bringing applications to life in three technology areas: Power Electronics, RF & Microwave and Photonics.  The Catapult exists to help the UK economy grow and works across the world-class UK Power Electronics supply chain within a range of industry sectors from automotive to medical, and from energy to aerospace.  The next generation of semiconductors in Power Electronics are critical to enable components in the electrification revolution, covering everything from clean energy to electric transportation.