Addressed main challenges related to GaN adoption: discover the GaNext PENTA Project impact summary!

13 Jul 2023

GaN transistors are wide-bandgap compound semiconductor devices that revolutionize power electronic systems. They offer lower resistance, faster switching times, and reduced losses compared to silicon devices. GaN enables higher operation frequencies, leading to smaller passive components and more compact power electronic systems. In GaNext, 13 partners collaborated and developed a GaN-based Intelligent Power Module (IPM) integrating drive, control, and protection circuits.

GaNext project has developed an intelligent Gallium Nitride (GaN) power module where the drive, control, and protection circuits are integrated or co-packaged with the power device.

GaNext objectives and challenges

GaN is arguably the most promising material to replace silicon in power electronics applications in the 650V market sector. This sector is worth multi-billion with applications ranging from power supplies, power factor correction, AC-DC converters, and wireless charging to inverters in electric vehicles. Power systems based on GaN are lighter, more compact, significantly more efficient and potentially cheaper than those based on silicon. But the high switching speed and low gate voltage of state-of-the-art GaN devices make them challenging to use.
The aim of project ‘GaNext’ was to remove the barriers to the adoption of GaN and fully demonstrate the higher efficiency and compactness of GaN-based systems in a range of power systems. The heart of the project was the development of an intelligent GaN power module wherethe drive, the voltage control, and the protection circuits are integrated or co-packaged with the power device.
The new suggested integrated power module addresses some key problems with current GaN-based circuits. Currently, GaN has certain advantages, but its switching speed needs to be slowed down to prevent high-frequency oscillations. This means that users do not fully benefit from GaN’s capabilities. However, by integrating some passive components into the module, GaNext has reduced these oscillations and also decreased electromagnetic interference. Another issue is that the gate voltage distortions can cause unreliable switching of the transistors. But with the tailored design of the GaNext gate driver and its close integration with auxiliary devices on the GaN – Integrated Circuit (IC), these distortions have been minimized and the reliability of switching has been improved. To fully unlock the potential of GaN, a high-speed control IC has also been added with advanced safety features and heat extraction has been implemented. Furthermore, current and temperature sensors have been directly integrated onto the GaN-IC. This allows to significantly expand the safe operating area of the system. Additionally, a dedicated package for the power module has been developed, encompassing the GaN power transistor, control circuitry, and drive circuitry. This module has been successfully demonstrated, providing a competitive advantage in power systems such as Electric Vehicles’ (EV) chargers, lighting, drives, and photovoltaic (PV) inverters, all of which feature optimized magnetic components. By addressing these various aspects, GaNext IPM has become a central component in the next generation of GaN power systems.

Technological achievements

The project aimed to address two main challenges related to GaN adoption and achieved specific outcomes. The key achievements include:

Goal 1: Remove barriers to adoption for GaN. The project successfully built a co-packaged intelligent GaN power module, which integrated GaN technology into a compact and efficient power module design. This achievement aimed to overcome challenges such as limited knowledge, high costs, and complex integration associated with GaN adoption.

Goal 2: Demonstrate higher efficiency and compactness of GaN-based systems. The project successfully demonstrated the higher efficiency and compactness of GaN-based systems in a range of power systems (Figure 2). This achievement validated the potential benefits of GaN technology, including improved energy efficiency and reduced size of power electronics.

GaNext made breakthroughs in four main areas.
1. GaN-on-Si power Integrated Circuit (IC) (650V, up to 70A) with integrated sensing and driving elements.
2. Si and GaN low-voltage logic, control, and level-shift Silicon-on-Insulator (SOI) gate drive circuitry.
3. Manufacturing of a dedicated package for the power module that included the GaN power transistor and the control and drive circuitry.
4. Demonstrated competitive advantage of the power module in power systems such as EV charger, lighting, drives and PV inverter; featuring optimised magnetic components.

Market Potential

Besi gained valuable insights through GaNext, facilitating the design of advanced GaN-based IPM packages with exceptional thermal performance for the GaN power market. CGD utilized GaNext to establish a comprehensive supply chain, enabling compatibility with advanced packaging technologies and positioning themselves in the bare-die business. Infineon holds the second position in the gate driver IC market, leveraging optimized SOI technology to strengthen its presence in established applications and penetrate new markets. Their gate driver ICs, enhanced with optimized SOI technology, drive the adoption of Wide Band Gap (WBG) GaN and SiC semiconductors, expanding their share in the IPM market. Neways, an EMS supplier, is well-positioned to benefit from the demand for power electronics in the e-mobility and automotive sectors.
The growing e-mobility charging market offers an opportunity for Neways to differentiate with GaN IPMs. Signify dominates the Horticulture market, delivering innovative lighting solutions. These companies are poised to capitalize on industry trends, technological advancements, and market growth, ensuring their competitive advantage and driving success in their respective markets..

Future Developments

Besi and Neways will participate in “R-Podid”. Besi will further investigate the influence of encapsulation on GaNbased power module reliability. CGD’s collaboration with CSAC has impacted product development, including the dv/dt immunity improvement circuit and thermal characterization in the UK-funded project “P3EP.” Infineon leverages project results to enhance gate driver IC derivatives and expand the Level Shifter and IPM portfolios. Memorandum of Understanding signed between Neways-CGD on further enhancement of future collaboration. Signify develops GaNbased Horticulture drivers and conducts research in projects like PowerizeD and All2GaN. TUDo focuses on iFF circuit development and reliability testing,
comparing multiple setups. TU/e will develop a power electronics building block using ALL2GaN techniques, studying WBG device reliability. FHG
secured internal funding to advance the TRL of the AIRISC-POWER processor to TRL5, following successful outcomes in GaNext. To aid the development process, an advisory board led by Siemens and X-Fab has been established by FHG.

Discover more about this project partners’ key technological achievements and get to know more about project econimucal and societal impact in the GaNext  impact summary

PENTA is an EUREKA Network Cluster operated by AENEAS.