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Price or Performance: Bulk GaN Vies with Silicon for Value in LEDs, Power Electronics and Laser Diodes

Wide-band-gap semiconductor materials such as gallium nitride (GaN) have superior material properties compared to silicon for use in devices like power electronics, laser diodes, and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Where devices based on GaN-on-silicon substrates grow, bulk GaN substrates offer the potential to improve device performance, albeit at higher cost. We evaluated the manufacturing costs of bulk GaN substrates and the added cost of GaN epitaxy, and compared the result to the alternative GaN-on-silicon approach. GaN-on-silicon will remain the low-cost solution for wafers, but GaN-on-GaN can become competitive at the device level under the right conditions. As a result, bulk GaN wins in laser diodes, but it must race to become relevant in LEDs and power electronics by boosting yield and performance enough to make devices cost competitive.

Table of Contents

  • Executive Summary
      • GaN-on-Silicon will be the Cheapest Solution in 2020, but GaN-on-GaN Promises Superior Performance
  • Landscape
    • Increasing Availability of Bulk GaN Substrates Could Open Doors to New Applications
    • Low Dislocation Density of Bulk GaN Enables Critical Device Functionality
      • There are Two Major Types of Power Electronics Device Structures
      • When Working with Silicon Substrates, there are Four Principle GaN Epitaxy Growth Approaches
    • Bulk GaN Manufacturing Comes In Different Flavors, Each with Its Own Limitations
      • Ammonothermal Process is Typically Slow, but Characterized by Low Dislocation Density
      • Hydride Vapor Phase Epitaxy Process is Faster to Scale, but Plagued by Higher Dislocation Density
      • Sodium Flux Process is Early in the Game and Unlikely to be Commercialized at Scale
    • Laser Diodes, LEDs, and Power Electronics Offer Opportunities for Bulk GaN
      • It's a Battle Between GaN-on-GaN and GaN-on-Silicon
    • Landscape Conclusions
  • Analysis
    • Bulk GaN Manufacturing Competes with GaN-on-Silicon Technologies
    • Ammonothermal Costs for a Two-inch Substrate Will Trump HVPE by 2018
    • For a Four-inch Substrate, Ammonothermal Remains More Expensive Than HVPE
    • Four-inch GaN-on-Silicon Epitaxy Trumps All
    • Bulk GaN Can Be Competitive in LEDs, Depending on Yield and Performance
      • GaN-on-GaN Faces A Wider Range of Outcomes in Power Electronics
    • Regardless of Cost, Performance Demands May Require Bulk GaN in Some Uses
  • Outlook
  • About Lux Research
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