How can 5G be a huge market opportunity for GaN Semiconductors?
Most of the 5G rollout up until now has been in frequency bands closer to 4G than to 5G’s higher frequencies. The current state of 5G has witnessed less technological development than might have been expected, with the promise of high-frequency, Gigabit download speeds and millisecond latency yet to be fulfilled in a major way.
There’s more potential for technical progress, therefore a variety of technologies and materials are possible. A vital one is wide-bandgap semiconductors, according to Tech Experts. There is also a lot of promise in the 5G wireless networking market, especially for Gallium Nitride (GaN), which has an impact on other parts including die-attach materials, according to the study.
Laterally diffused metal-oxide-semiconductor (LDMOS) devices have been the primary technology of choice for power amplifiers throughout the 4G era.
Power amplifiers play a key part in boosting the signal for transmission. The problem is that, above 4GHz, LDMOS starts to become ineffective (essential for telecoms infrastructure since it affects antenna energy consumption).
With most of the 5G infrastructure implemented simultaneously with existing equipment, telecom tower energy use is expected to rise dramatically. One approach to minimize future strain is the adoption of wide-bandgap semiconductors like GaN.
At higher frequencies, the conversion efficiency of GaN is greatly improved (by 10% or more in certain use cases).
Although it has been used in 4G networks with Huawei technology since 2014, it has had limited worldwide adoption due to the higher cost, decreasing manufacturing availability, and difficulty in integration with other components. However, it is far from a boutique innovation by start-ups.
For example, Sumitomo Corporation produces RF components for Huawei, such as their GaN devices.
Experts predict that over the next decade, especially for higher frequencies, GaN will have a significant growth in popularity. For higher-end sub-6GHz infrastructure with larger powers and component integration.
By the end of the decade, Experts forecast a four-fold increase in GaN demand each year for this application.
The introduction of wide-bandgap materials generally raises the junction temperature of devices and introduces new thermal management issues. The connection between the semiconductor device and the die attach material is one crucial failure point during thermal cycling.
Junction temperatures for GaN chips are frequently above 175°C. At this stage, we start to restrict the choices for standard solder materials, especially when lead-free is a must in many regions.
Many gamers are turning to sinter materials as a result of this. Sintering is the process of heating (typically silver) paste to cause densification. As a result, the connection is more durable and has better thermal conductivity.
This has already been put into practice in the electric vehicle (EV) sector owing to the shift to silicon carbide (SiC) and 800V platforms.
The primary limitation has been the lack of business expertise, long curing periods, and the necessity for an inert atmosphere or higher pressures, but advancements in these materials, wider market acceptance, and the movement towards GaN may help sintering gain traction in the 5G industry as well.
The demand for sintering materials in 5G infrastructure is expected to grow ten-fold by 2030, according to industry experts. Copper sintering materials rather than silver (due to the potentially lower costs and enhanced performance), but this runs into the same problems as silver sintering had when compared with solder.