While silicon remains the mainstream power semiconductor material, silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) are seen more suitable for power semiconductor devices needed by electric cars and mobile devices, as they can perform much better than Si in reducing on-state resistance and miniaturizing the size of power devices, thus helping the devices achieve fast charging, power consumption and high energy conversion functions. It is expected that the SiC and GaN power semiconductor markets will experience a higher growth than the Si semiconductor market by 2025, Digitimes Research believes.
Taking advantage of mature technology and lower cost, Si power semiconductors recorded global market sales of over US$24 billion in 2016, compared to only US$200 million and US$14 million for SiC and GaN power semiconductors, respectively.
Nevertheless, SiC and GaN are gradually replacing Si in specific applications, with SiC power semiconductor devices for applications with high power capacity, and GaN for applications involving medium to low power capacities.
Digitimes Research estimates that the prices of SiC and GaN with high anti-compression strength will gradually decline in 2020, which will drive price cuts on those with medium to low compression resistance along with the refinements in production process and technologies as well as the entry of new players.
Since 2015, both the US and China have seen Si power semiconductor manufacturers foray into the SiC and GaN semiconductor fields, and both Germany and Taiwan wafer foundry houses are also beginning to offer contract fabrication services for SiC and GaN semiconductors, which is expected to help drive down the prices of both semiconductors.
In addition, Ga2O3 is emerging as a new material for power semiconductor, with its price getting close to that of Si but able to better reduce on-state resistance. This new material is expected to be applied for mass production of power semiconductor devices in 2018, and is likely to outgrow the GaN power semiconductor market by 2025, Digitimes Research estimates.