Third-generation compound semiconductors such as SiC and GaN are very crucial to the future development of electrical vehicles (EV) and green power industries, and heterogeneous integration will play a pivotal role in determining market competitiveness for the WBG (wide bandgap) components, according to Hao-Chung Kuo, director of Semiconductor Research Center under Hon Hai Research Institute.
Kuo said more and more EV makers including Tesla are using SiC chips in their mass-produced vehicles, and other automakers such as Porsche and Toyota are also enhancing development of SiC components. EV voltages range from 400-800 volts, and SiC power devices enable faster power charging and greater power saving thanks to their strong resistance to high temperature and high voltage, he continued.
But Kuo stressed there are still many challenges facing the development of automotive compound semiconductors, including how to reduce the costs and defects of SiC substrates and improve SiC process and reliability, how to develop the technology for large-area and high-quality GaN epitaxial wafers, and enhance the test and reliability analysis for GaN components, and how to satisfy the packaging needs for automotive SiC and GaN devices, which are all problems Taiwan makers should address to deepen presence in the sector.
At the moment, the automotive compound semiconductor market is still dominated by major vendors in the US, Europe, and Japan, but Taiwan makers are not without a competitive advantage in the sector, Kuo said.
Kuo pointed out that Taiwan's strong prowess in the silicon semiconductor sector, such as good yield rates and advanced manufacturing processes, provides a good foundation for supply chain players to tap into the car-use compound semiconductor field. He continued backend houses can incorporate smart manufacturing solutions and AI-related technologies into their packaging process to further improve yield rates and enhance quality reliability, thus accelerating their entry into international markets.
At the moment, Taiwan's total output value of third-generation compound semiconductor components is not high, but such components are indispensable to the future development of EVs, renewable energy and energy storage, Kuo said, stressing that how to integrate multiple components with different functions into single modules to support diverse applications will be an important development direction and require concerted efforts from the industry, government and academia sectors.
Meanwhile, Cheng-Wen Wu, senior vice president and chief technology expert at the government-funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), said Taiwan's silicon semiconductor supply chain continues to cross into the production of compound semiconductor devices, yet with an output value of the devices accounting for only 8% of the country's total semiconductor production.
Wu stressed that it's imperative to develop downstream ecosystems for compound semiconductors such as devices, molds, system products, and applications, which will help to expand their output value by over 10-fold.
Wu disclosed that ITRI has joined forces with local automotive components makers to set up a new compound semiconductor cluster in Shalun Green Energy Technology Demonstration Site in southern Taiwan, looking to build an automotive SiC and GaN power devices ecosystem to help makers embrace the upcoming golden age for EVs.
Hao-Chung Kuo, director of Semiconductor Research Center under Hon Hai Research Institute
Photo: Hon Hai Research Institute