Bulk GaN currently costs about $1900 or more for a 2-inch substrate, compared with $25-50 for a far larger 6-inch silicon substrate. But GaN materials offer higher efficiencies than silicon, leading to greater energy savings in devices such as power electronics, laser diodes, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). These gains can offset cost disadvantages – the price-to-performance ratio is the key to adoption, says Lux Research.
“The future of bulk GaN is going to come down to how it faces off against silicon substrates,” says analyst Pallavi Madakasira, lead author of the report. “Bulk GaN wins in laser diodes and it can become relevant in LEDs and power electronics by boosting yield and performance.”
Lux Research analysts broke down the manufacturing costs for the ammonothermal and hydride vapor phase epitaxy (HVPE) processes for making bulk GaN, as well as for GaN epitaxy on both silicon and GaN substrates, and determined where the price/performance trade-off will land. Their findings include the following:
HVPE is the cheaper alternative: 2-inch ammonothermal substrate costs will fall by more than 60% to $730/substrate in 2020. While 4-inch HVPE substrate costs will fall by 40% to $1340/substrate in 2020, the larger size makes it the more economical choice.
Performance boost is key: Bulk GaN can overcome high cost by boosting performance, in terms of lumen (lm) output in LEDs or of volt-amp (V-A) capacity in power electronics, by allowing the use of smaller dies and providing higher yields. In LEDs, GaN can match silicon with a 380% relative performance – an ambitious but realistic goal. For power electronics, performance at 360% of devices on silicon makes bulk GaN a winner.
New materials on the horizon: Emerging materials such as aluminium nitride (AlN) are suited to very low-wavelength ultraviolet LED, green laser diode and high-switching-frequency power electronics applications, and can be an effective alternative to bulk GaN.
The report is part of the Lux Research Energy Electronics Intelligence service.
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