Navitas’ design journey within the GaN semiconductor realm

Navitas Semiconductor, a serious gallium nitride (GaN) energy gadget provider, showcased its newest choices at CES 2023 in Las Vegas. These GaN-based units spanned from 20-W cell phone chargers to 2-kW knowledge heart energy provides and 20-kW electrical car (EV) chargers to megawatt-scale grid-tied merchandise.

Determine 1 On the firm’s sales space, every presentation was adopted by attendees having the prospect to win prizes and giveaways. Supply: Navitas Semiconductor

On CES 2023 ground, Navitas created some GaN buzz by means of displays from its senior executives and GaN expertise companions. The corporate was additionally in a position to spotlight its “Electrify Our World” theme whereas asserting quite a lot of prizes for sales space guests. Navitas, that means vitality in Latin, has come a great distance since being based on a trailer within the car parking zone of Hughes Analysis Laboratories (HRL) in Malibu, California.

It was based in 2013 by former Worldwide Rectifier (HRL) executives Gene Sheridan and Dan Kinzer. The following yr, funding agency MalibuIQ licensed the GaN energy electronics expertise from HRL, which had accomplished vital work in maturing GaN units for the army’s RF and millimeter wave functions.

In July 2015, Navitas raised $15.1 million in fairness financing. It additionally moved from trailer to El Segundo, California, finally organising its headquarters in Torrance, California. The corporate at the moment employs round 200 folks; about half of them are in the US, and the remainder are in numerous components of Asia and Europe.

GaN design challenges

CES 2023 ground was a very good place to gauge the design progress that GaN semiconductors have remodeled the previous years. Based on Dan Kinzer, Navitas co-founder and chief expertise officer, the shortage of high-performance circuits to drive the GaN transistors shortly and cost-effectively has been a key limitation for the potential of GaN semiconductors.

Navitas discovered a method round this design problem through the monolithic integration of GaN drive and logic circuits with GaN energy FETs. This monolithic integration allows high-frequency energy conversion and the flexibility to shrink passive parts comparable to transformers, EMI filters, and output capacitors. That, in flip, facilitates options that may cost 3x quicker in half the dimensions and weight of outdated and sluggish silicon units.

Determine 2 Extremely built-in GaN ICs bolster energy density whereas considerably lowering dimension and price. Supply: Navitas Semiconductor

Stephen Oliver, VP of company advertising at Navitas Semiconductor, additional elaborated on this significant design premise for GaN units whereas speaking to EDN on the firm’s sales space. He stated that GaN has been an awesome materials in serving to create quick and environment friendly semiconductors, nevertheless it has one huge drawback: gate. It’s very delicate, and for those who put an excessive amount of voltage on it, it’s going to break down. Due to this fact, when you’ve got a change with a weak gate, you should put a whole lot of safety round it. And that takes up more room and design prices.

Furthermore, Oliver warned, you continue to have an opportunity to get a voltage spike. So, you must sluggish issues down and even take into account going again to silicon. “It’s a really dead-end avenue.” Nonetheless, the combination of GaN change, GaN driver, GaN regulator, GaN ESD safety diode, stage shifting, bootstrap, under-voltage lockout, and present sensing results in the creation of a powerful, highly effective GaN IC.

Thermal administration has been one other stumbling block for GaN semiconductors. “The benefit of GaN is that resistance is way decrease than silicon, which lets you develop a really small chip,” Oliver stated. “The dangerous factor is that smaller chips have a smaller floor space, so thermal resistance to the surface world is lowered.” Due to this fact, design engineers should make sure that the GaN gadget doesn’t create a lot warmth. “What we now have accomplished with our preliminary platform is use customary QFN bundle dimension,” Oliver added.

GaN’s energy disruption

To beat GaN-related design challenges, Navitas can also be adopting a platform- or system-level strategy. “It’s a brand new expertise, so for those who provide one thing operating at 2 MHz to energy system designers who’re used to working at 50 kHz, they’ll want somewhat assist,” Oliver stated. “We create design platforms constructed round a how-to-do-it strategy in order that engineers can assessment vital particulars like bill-of-materials.”

Navitas entered the GaN foray at a time when this large bandgap (WBG) expertise had crossed the bridge from academia to industrial use instances. Quick ahead to 2023, this GaN specialist, whereas having partnered with TSMC for wafers and Amkor for packaging, is assured in its potential to proceed providing GaN options that may displace silicon in energy electronics.

Determine 3 After cell chargers and data-center energy provides, EVs are one of many subsequent frontiers for GaN energy units. Supply: Navitas Semiconductor

Just some years in the past, folks requested when GaN would occur. And now, when GaN is already right here, it’s in all probability a bit late to affix the GaN occasion. Navitas is among the few GaN gadget specialists that at the moment are a part of this energy electronics market disruption. The yr 2023 will possible be about market penetration, and Navitas appears a part of this race for the GaN riches.

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