Bosch to develop 1200V GaN process for automotive

Bosch to develop 1200V GaN process for automotive

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Bosch is developing a 1200V gallium nitride technology produced in Europe for automotive that will sit alongside its silicon carbide (SiC) devices.

This is part of a plan to invest €3bn in its semiconductor division by 2026 as part of the proposed European IPCEI programme on microelectronics and communications technology. There are several projects in EUrope, China and the US developing 1200V GaN devices.

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The Reutlingen plant has been mass-producing silicon carbide (SiC) chips since the end of 2021 for electric and hybrid vehicles, where they have already helped boost operating ranges by up to 6 percent.

With annual growth rates of 30 percent or more, demand for SiC chips remains high, meaning full order books for Bosch. In a bid to make these power electronics more affordable and more efficient, and to address the shortages, Bosch is exploring the use of other types of chips as well.

“We’re also looking into the development of chips based on gallium nitride for electromobility applications,” said Stefan Hartung, chairman of the Bosch board of management. “These chips are already found in laptop and smartphone chargers.”

 Before they can be used in vehicles, they will have to become more robust and able to withstand substantially higher voltages of up to 1200 volts says Bosch. “Challenges like these are all part of the job for Bosch engineers. Our strength is that we’ve been familiar with microelectronics for a long time – and we know our way around cars just as well.”

The plan also includes the construction of two new development centres – in Reutlingen and Dresden – at a combined cost of over €170m. In addition, the company will spend €250m over the coming year on the creation of an extra 3,000 square meters of clean-room space at its wafer fab in Dresden. “We’re gearing up for continued growth in demand for semiconductors – also for the benefit of our customers,” Hartung said. “For us, these miniature components mean big business.”

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Bosch points to its €1bn investment in the 300mm fab in Dresden, which opened in June 2021. The semiconductor centre in Reutlingen is also being systematically expanded: between now and 2025, Bosch is to invest around 400 million euros in the expansion of manufacturing capacity and the conversion of existing factory space into new clean-room space. This includes construction of a new extension in Reutlingen, which will create an additional 3,600 square meters of ultramodern clean-room space. All in all, clean-room space in Reutlingen is set to grow from around 35,000 square meters at present to over 44,000 square meters by the end of 2025.

Bosch is also building a new test centre for semiconductors in Penang, Malaysia, that will open in 2023 to test finished semiconductor chips and sensors.

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