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Aixtron partners in UltimateGaN project to make power semiconductors available for broad applications at competitive cost

Deposition equipment maker Aixtron SE of Herzogenrath, near Aachen, Germany says that it is a partner in the European research project UltimateGaN (research for GaN technologies, devices and applications to address the challenges of the futureGaN roadmap). In addition to Aixtron, 25 other companies and institutions from nine countries have come together to research the next generation of energy-saving chips based on gallium nitride (GaN) over the next three years. The aim is to make these power semiconductors available for a wide range of applications at globally competitive costs.

UltimateGaN is one of the largest existing European research projects in semiconductor development. The €48m in funding consists of investment by industry, subsidies from the individual participating countries and the Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership (ECSEL) Joint Undertaking (JU).

Efficient use of energy for climate protection

“By developing intelligent technologies, we are making a key contribution to the global challenge of climate change,” says Aixtron president Dr Felix Grawert. “New materials and efficient chip solutions play a key role here. With this research project, we are creating the conditions for making innovative energy-saving chips available for many future-oriented everyday applications,” he adds.

“Gallium nitride semiconductor devices are revolutionizing energy use on many levels,” says professor Michael Heuken, Aixtron’s VP Research & Development. “The research project opens up an enormous global market potential,” he adds. “It enables better performance and efficiency in a wide range of applications and significantly improves user comfort. Efficient operation of servers and data centers, fast and wireless charging of smartphones, data exchange between machines in real time, or lightning-fast video streaming become reality.”

UltimateGaN - smaller, energy-efficient chips at marketable costs

UltimateGaN’s objective is to develop innovative power and high-frequency electronics from gallium nitride. Aixtron is contributing its expertise as a supplier to the semiconductor industry and in the production of gallium nitride to the research project: The production of high-quality wafers using metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) technology is carried out on Aixtron equipment at the Infineon plant in Villach, Austria.

In terms of materials and processes, research is now going one step further to develop the next generation of these highly efficient energy-saving chips for the mass market: The focus is on further miniaturization and provision of the chips in high quality and at globally competitive costs. The unique material structure of GaN enables higher current densities to be achieved, which allows smaller and lighter designs that switch the current much more efficiently and can transmit higher data rates more quickly. The result is a significant reduction in energy consumption: current losses are reduced by up to 50%.

Profit from renewable energy, e-mobility and faster data transfer

Many applications in which low energy consumption, compact designs and faster data exchange are key will benefit from the use of the chips. The energy efficiency of high-performance servers and other IT infrastructure devices will gain a further boost with the research project: power dissipation can be significantly reduced by the higher switching efficiency of GaN power devices. The new 5G mobile communication standard and ultra-fast video loading are also supported, for example, as is real-time traffic flow control for autonomous driving or, in the context of Industry 4.0, easy communication between machines.

Research focuses along the entire value chain

When seeking to miniaturize GaN chips, the small and compact design as well as the complex technology required for the connections and packaging present special challenges. High current densities, the effect of electrical fields, and material stresses and stabilities must be taken into account. As a result, the research will take a holistic approach with the entire value chain in focus – from process development, design, assembly and packaging technologies to integrated system solutions. The consortium of partners from academia and business is therefore equally broadly based.

UltimateGaN project partners

UltimateGaN’s 26 partners from nine countries include: Austria Technologie & Systemtechnik AG, Infineon Technologies Austria AG, Fronius International GmbH, CTR Carinthian Tech Research AG, and Graz University of Technology (of Austria); IMEC (in Belgium); Aixtron SE, Infineon Technologies AG, Siltronic AG, Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH, Fraunhofer Society for the Promotion of Applied Research e.V., Chemnitz University of Technology, and NaMLab GmbH (of Germany); Università degli studi di Padova, Infineon Technologies Italia, and Universita di Milano Bicocca (of Italy); Eltek AS (in Norway); Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava, and Nano Design SRO (of Slovakia); Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Attolight SA (of Switzerland); IKERLAN, For Optimal Renewable Energy, and LEAR (of Spain); and RISE Research Institutes of Sweden AB and SweGaN AB (of Sweden).

The project has received funding from the ECSEL Joint Undertaking (JU) under grant agreement No 826392. The JU receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program and Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland.


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