September 17, 2021

CHICAGO PIXELS

SEMICONDUCTOR RESEARCH CENTER

What is the third generation of semiconductor materials?

What is the third generation of semiconductor materials?

The third generation of semiconductor materials is those materials with a wide bandgap, represented by silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride (GaN), zinc oxide (ZnO), diamond, and aluminum nitride (AlN). The third generation of semiconductor materials has a wide bandgap, high breakdown electric field, high thermal conductivity, high electron saturation rate and higher radiation resistance.

It is widely used in new energy vehicles, rail transit, smart grid, new generation mobile communication, consumer electronics and other fields, and is regarded as the core technology supporting the development of energy, transportation, information, defense and other industries.

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The Applications of the Third Generation of Semiconductor Materials

As can be seen, the first generation of semiconductor materials are mainly used in the manufacture of discrete devices and chips; the second generation of semiconductor materials are mainly used in the production of high-speed, high-frequency, high-power and light-emitting electronic devices. They are also excellent materials for the production of high-performance microwave and millimeter-wave devices and are widely used in the fields of microwave communications, optical communications, satellite communications, optoelectronic devices, lasers and satellite navigation.

The third generation of semiconductor materials is widely used in the production of high-temperature, high-frequency, high-power and radiation-resistant electronic devices. Furthermore, they are also used in semiconductor lighting, 5G communications, power electronics, aerospace and many other fields.

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The third generation of semiconductor materials has been considered as a new driving force in the development of today’s electronics industry. Take silicon carbide, a typical representative of third-generation semiconductors, as an example. Silicon carbide has the characteristics of high critical magnetic field, high electron saturation speed, and extremely high thermal conductivity, making its devices suitable for high-frequency and high-temperature application scenarios. Compared with silicon devices, silicon carbide devices can significantly reduce switching losses.

Therefore, silicon carbide can manufacture high-voltage, high-power electronic devices such as MOSFETs, IGBTs, SBDs, etc. to use in smart grids, new energy vehicles and other industries.

Compared with silicon components, gallium nitride has the characteristics of the high critical magnetic field, high electron saturation speed and extremely high electron mobility. It is an excellent choice for UHF (Ultra High Frequency) devices and is suitable for applications in 5G communications, microwave radio frequency and other fields.

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Current Status of the Third Generation Semiconductor Materials

From an international perspective, after experiencing several major technological changes in human history, the development of the third generation of semiconductor technology has become a trend. Because it is quietly changing the world economic structure. If the country wants to be stable and prosperous, then the development of advanced technologies is a necessary path.

Therefore, both western developed countries and Asian developing countries are promoting the development of the global third-generation semiconductor industry from different levels.

Due to the disadvantages of manufacturing equipment, manufacturing process and cost, the third generation of semiconductor materials only have been used in a small range for many years and cannot challenge the dominance of silicon-based semiconductors. At present, the silicon carbide substrate technology is relatively simple, 4 inches of mass production has been achieved in China, and 6 inches of research and development have also been completed, but the gallium nitride preparation technology still needs to be improved.

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In early 2014 in the United States, President Barack Obama announced the establishment of the “Next Generation of Power Electronics Technology National Manufacturing Innovation Center”, hoping to strengthen the industrialization of the third-generation semiconductor technologies to enable the United States to occupy the next generation of the power electronics industry.

Europe launched the industry-university-research project “LASTPOWER”, led by STMicroelectronics, and coordinated with private companies, universities and public research centers from six European countries including Italy and Germany. They jointly researched the key technologies of SiC and GaN. Through the research and development of cost-effective and highly reliable SiC and GaN power electronics technologies, the project puts Europe at the forefront of the world’s research and commercial use of energy-efficient power chips.

In the future, power devices made of semiconductor SiC materials will support the development trend of today’s energy-saving technology and become the core component of energy-saving equipment. Therefore, semiconductor SiC power devices are also known in the industry as the “CPU” of power converters and the “core” of the green economy.

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