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The next frontier in efficiency and performance

In the field of power electronics, the rise of gallium nitride (GaN) has been extraordinary. With more than a decade of mass production, GaN on silicon has gained widespread acceptance as the superior successor to the aging silicon MOSFET for voltage applications between 40 V and 650 V. Today we will delve into the factors influencing the growth of GaN power devices, based on experiences and lessons learned from power MOSFETs and recent GaN applications in various markets such as space, automotive, enterprise computing and consumer products.

The Quest for Greater Efficiency: SiC Technology

In the quest for higher efficiency standards for drive systems, stringent regulations are becoming the norm, with some requiring more than 15% loss reduction per standard level. In this field, silicon has been the most widely used and proven material for years. However, the quest for higher efficiency is pushing the limits of silicon technology, necessitating a new solution.

The limitations of silicon:
As drive systems evolve, so do the requirements for higher performance and efficiency. The transition from passive power factor correctors (PFCs) to active PFCs and the demand for higher performance inverters are driving the need for innovations. While silicon has served us well, its limitations are becoming increasingly apparent, and simply adding more silicon is proving to be a mediocre solution.

SiC to the rescue:
Silicon carbide (SiC) heralds a new horizon for more efficient industrial drives. SiC addresses challenges in various sub-segments of industrial drives, from a few kilowatts to megawatts, with unmatched efficiency.

Increased system efficiency:
One of the key advantages of SiC lies in its ability to significantly increase system efficiency. By reducing switching losses and enabling higher operating frequencies, SiC technology offers a marked improvement in overall efficiency, ensuring that every watt of power is used effectively.

Increased system power density:
SiC also excels in improving system power density. Thanks to superior material properties, SiC devices can handle higher voltages and currents while taking up less space. This translates into more power in less space, resulting in compact and lightweight drive systems.

Reduced system cost of ownership:
A crucial aspect when adopting any new technology is its economic viability. SiC excels in this regard by reducing the total cost of system ownership. Although SiC devices may have a higher initial cost than silicon alternatives, the long-term benefits outweigh the initial investment. Increased efficiency and reduced system size ultimately translate into cost savings over the life of the drive system.

As the power electronics landscape continues to evolve, GaN and SiC are carving out a niche in the industry. GaN-on-Si devices have demonstrated their potential as successors to traditional silicon MOSFETs, while SiC technology is driving a new era of higher efficiency industrial drives. The adoption of these cutting-edge technologies will not only meet the demands of efficiency regulations, but will also pave the way for a more sustainable and innovative future in power electronics.