News Article

France Pumps $22m Into Wide-bandgap Sector

ST Microelectronics is heading a French national project to develop GaN and SiC Schottky diodes based on 6-inch silicon substrates, and says these compound semiconductors are important for its future power devices.

An 8-way French collaboration has won €15 million ($22 million) in government funding to capitalize on the energy-efficiency promise of wide-bandgap semiconductor devices.

The project, called G2REC, is being run by STMicroelectronics and including contributions from its partners is valued at €30 million in total.

“The program is starting now and it will last four years," said Christian Nopper, R&D director of the ST division which will manage the project. “We think that in three years we will be able to sample and in four years we will be ready for ramp-up."

Both GaN and SiC will be embraced by the program, which seeks to make 600 V Schottky diodes on silicon wafers in order to reduce costs and drive acceptance. Consequently Picogiga is contributing its experience of integrating compound semiconductors with silicon, alongside silicon wafer supplier Siltronix.

The cross-discliplinary team will also include the compound foundries of Ommic and the Alcatel-Thales III-V fab, and the SiC polishing expertise of NovaSiC. The smaller partners in the collaboration stand to gain most, Nopper points out.

“Their size today is linked to the niche markets they're addressing," he said. “If we succeed in entering the power market with them with wide-bandgap semiconductors, they will increase size in terms of employees."

Strong demands for power supplies
G2REC s main focus is switch-mode devices for everyday applications, like power supplies for laptops and mobile phones.

For this, GaN-based Schottky diodes are lined up to perform down-conversion from France s 220 V power grid to the much lower voltages at which consumer products operate. Their SiC-based counterparts will target higher power industrial markets.

The French government was keen to draw attention to the potential environmental benefits its investment in G2REC could produce.

“The use of these new materials to manufacture power components will be translated into a notable fall in energy losses," said the French Agency of Industrial Innovation (AII) in a statement. “G2REC thus contributes to the EU objective to reduce consumption of energy by 20 percent by 2020."

G2REC stands for “grand gap rectifier", “grand gap" being the French term for “wide-bandgap". This is apt for a project concentrating on converting existing French wide-bandgap knowledge into advanced products and a “value chain" feeding their production.

“For ST here in Tours, this program is really part of our cultural portfolio because we have been dealing with power products for 30 years," Nopper points out. “This is why we pushed this group of wide-bandgap people to focus on the same industrial goals, supported by the state of France."

“We think that this will be the major trend [in power devices] for the next 5 years," he said.

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