New material to overcome limits of silicon and even GaN

January 22, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
New material to overcome limits of silicon and even GaN
In power electronics, the silicon technology that predominates today will no longer be able to meet the growing demands in the foreseeable future. Scientists from the University, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and power centers have joined forces to research a novel material structure that will meet the requirements of industry for future components much better. Scientists therefore are investigating a rather exotic material most electronics engineers probably never have heard of: ScAIN.

Two main factors are responsible for the growth of the electronics market: the automation and digitization of the industry as well as the increasing awareness of ecological responsibility and sustainable processes. Energy consumption can only be reduced if electronic systems can become more energy and resource efficient.

So far, silicon has dominated the electronics industry. In addition to its low cost and almost perfect crystal structure, silicon is also a particularly successful semiconductor material because its band gap enables good charge carrier concentration and speed as well as good dielectric strength. However, silicon electronics is gradually reaching its physical limits, especially with regard to the required power density of future generations of components and the resulting compactness of the devices equipped with them.

The use of the semiconductor gallium nitride (GaN) in power electronics has already overcome the limitations of silicon technology. GaN has the ability to exhibit greater performance than silicon at very high voltages, temperatures and switching frequencies, thus enabling significantly higher energy efficiency. In numerous energy-intensive applications, this means a significant reduction in energy consumption.


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