Infineon/Panasonic deal promises true-second-source GaN power devices

March 11, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
Setting up dual sourcing for normally-off 600V GaN power devices, Infineon Technologies and Panasonic have announced an agreement under which both companies will jointly develop products based on Panasonic’s normally-off (enhancement mode) GaN-on-silicon transistor structures, integrated into Infineon’s surface-mounted device (SMD) packages.

Panasonic has licensed its normally-off GaN transistor structure to Infineon, with the intention that each company will manufacture devices. Customers will have the added advantage of having two possible sources for compatible packaged GaN power switches, which Infineon says is an option not available for any other GaN on silicon device so far.

Infineon has had its own programme of power device development in non-silicon (GaN and silicon carbide) material; and it acquired further GaN-on-Silicon technology with the (recently-completed) acquisition of International Rectifier. IR had also developed 600V-class HEMTs (high-electron-mobility transistors) but had focussed on depletion mode (normally-on) devices that necessitated use of a cascoded driving arrangement. Infineon has not commented about how the licensing arrangement with Panasonic will impact further development of its own, or IR’s, technologies.

GaN-on-silicon has been receiving significant attention as one of the next compound semiconductor technologies that will on the one hand enable high power density and therefore a smaller footprint (e.g., for power supplies and adapters), and on the other hand serve as a major key for energy efficiency improvement. In general, power devices based on GaN-on-silicon technology can be used in a wide range of fields, from high voltage industrial applications such as power supplies in server farms (a potential application of the showcased 600V GaN device) to low voltage applications such as DC-DC conversion (e.g., in high-end consumer goods).

“Infineon is committed to serve its customers with a broad best-in-class product and technology portfolio including reliable power devices based on Gallium nitride. We are convinced that enhancement mode GaN-on-silicon switches, together with our corresponding driver and optimised driving scheme, will provide high value to our customers, while the dual sourcing concept will help them manage and stabilise their supply chains,” stated Andreas Urschitz, President of the Power Management & Multimarket Division of Infineon Technologies.

“Panasonic developed its normally-off GaN power technology which has a simple configuration and easy-to control dynamics.... we