GaN market penetration in industrial electronics

GaN market penetration in industrial electronics

Bas Reijnen, Senior System Architect, Neways Electronics

Bas Reijnen, Senior System Architect, Neways Electronics

Recent advancements in the semiconductor sector include the use of Gallium Nitride (GaN) components. Gallium Nitride ”GaN” is a promising material to replace silicon in power electronics application in the 650 V market sector, such as solar (PV) inverters, power supplies, motor controllers or LED drivers. Power systems based on GaN can be lighter, more compact, significantly more efficient and potentially cheaper than those based on Silicon.

The consumer electronics sector has, for specific cases, started adopting the GaN components in mass production, making use of one of the most obvious benefits of GaN: the increased switching frequency and therefore resulting higher power density. In particular, the AC/DC chargers for mobile applications are targeted, which can achieve high power capability whilst still being compact. But what about the market of industrial electronics, where a lot of power conversion is needed? As mentioned, the GaN technology allows for quite great performance, but it comes with a price: it requires some specific attention points during the design. These attention points vary from small differences in control voltage to high dV/ dT slopes capable of latching up the gate drivers, something which can cause a lot of trouble if it occurs in a real application.

In general, the market penetration of GaN is not that large yet, and the available expertise on the use of this technology is therefore not that extensive as the “good old” silicon devices. Due to the combination of the mentioned factors the standard silicon devices might be chosen in designs where GaN actually could provide a better solution. To overcome this hurdle, Neways Electronics International (Neways) is working on different innovation projects. One of these projects is the European GaNext project where an Intelligent Power Module (IPM) is being built together with international partners to remove existing barriers for adopting the GaN technology and demonstrate the higher efficiency and power density of GaN-based system in a range of applications. The heart of the project is the development of an intelligent GaN power module where the controller, drivers and protection circuits are co-packaged with the power devices.

The contribution of Neways as a System Innovator is to build an extremely compact solar inverter (PV inverter) that incorporates both the GaN technology and the IPM to demonstrate the use of GaN in industrial power applications. Therefore, Neways is using a two stage approach. At first a PV inverter is built using GaN devices and secondly a PV inverter is built using the Intelligent Power Module (IPM). Key targets for this PV inverter are an efficiency of >98% (reduction of losses by 20%) and a power density of 1kW/L (increase of power density up to 470%). Besides these technical targets, most important is that the developed building blocks can be reused in other applications and even other application domains.So far, the PV inverter is built using GaN devices and is functionally tested. Next steps are optimizations in order to achieve the goals and make sure we are getting the most out of the GaN technology! Gaining the knowledge of the use of discrete GaN and the IPM will increase the TRL level of these technologies within Neways and allows us to keep offering stateof-the art solutions for customers.

Weekly Brief

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