Power_electronics Features

NewSpace demands low voltage, high current power for performance and longevity - Nov 2022
Matt Renola, Senior Director, Global Business Development – Aerospace & Defense
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Power Electronics Europe News

Global investment in renewable energy capacity moved up 2 % to $303 billion in 2020. A geographical split of BNEF’s energy transition investment data shows that Europe accounted for the biggest slice of global investment, at $166 billion (up 67 %), with China at $135 billion (down 12 %) and the USA at $85 billion (down 11 %). Europe’s impressive performance was driven by a record year for electric vehicle sales, and the best year in renewable energy investment since 2012.

Market researcher Yole expects that the PHEV (Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) and BEV (battery electric vehicle) market will grow with around 37 % and 44 % annually until 2026. The converter market for xEV will be worth more than $29 billion in 2026. The market value for semiconductor power electronic devices for xEVs will reach $5.6 billion in 2026. And the total market value of power electronic devices for EV DC chargers will grow to around $350 million by 2026 at an annual growth rate of roughly 40 %. The total market value of power electronic devices for DC chargers will grow with a CAGR 2020-2026 of 21.5 %.

After ten years of its market introduction, 2021 is seen as the year of GaN (gallium-nitide) power devices, not only in automotive, as we have expressed in our issue 1 this year.

The GaN power market doubled in 2020 according to Yole, highlighting the growth of smartphone fast chargers and leading the way for telecom and automotive markets. In the consumer market, GaN enjoyed a successful year in 2020 thanks to several companies, such as Xiaomi, Lenovo, Samsung, Realme, Dell and LG, as well as other Chinese aftermarket companies that adopted GaN technology. Yole expects the GaN consumer power supply market to be the main driver, as this market is forecast to grow from almost $29 million in 2020 to around $670 million in 2026 with a CAGR of 70 %. The adoption of GaN in the smartphone market is fueled by system compactness, high efficiency, and adapter multifunctionalities. Fast charging is likely to be the killer application for the GaN power device market.

The automotive & mobility market is also paying lots of attention to GaN, following big incentives for the electrification of cars and the interest in increasing driving range through system efficiency optimization. Players such as EPC, Transphorm, GaN Systems, Texas Instruments and Nexperia are AEC qualified. The major IDM STMicroelectronics, through partnership and acquisition, is also targeting GaN for EVs. Starting from 2022, GaN is expected to penetrate in small volumes in applications such as OBC and DC/DC converters, so our comment in issue 3-2021.

Also interest in GaN has revived, mainly as a potential candidate for future EV/HEV 12 – 48 VDC converters and onboard chargers. 2021 will see more 48 V battery systems, particularly in mild hybrids, as manufacturers add active suspension, rear wheel steering or antiroll stabilization systems. The story of GaN in EV’s will shift to become more of a narrative about enhanced performance and new capabilities for vehicle designs. By 2025, one of every 10 vehicles sold worldwide will be a 48 V mild hybrid. 48 V systems boost fuel efficiency by 10-15 % delivering 4X the power without increasing engine size, and carbon-dioxide emissions by 25 %.The need for 48 V bus power distribution becomes increasingly evident with all the new power hungry electronically driven functions and features appearing on the latest cars such as electric start-stop, electric steering, electric suspension, electric turbo-supercharging, or variable speed air conditioning. And now, with the emergence of autonomous vehicles, additional demands from lidar, radar, camera, and ultrasonic sensors, are placed upon the power distribution system. These require high performance graphic processors to gather, interpret, integrate, and to make sense of it all. These processors are very power hungry and put an additional burden on traditional automotive 12 V electrical distribution buses. For 48 V bus systems, GaN technology increases the efficiency, shrinks the size, and reduces system cost. Due to the fast switching speed GaN-based solutions can operate at 250 kHz per phase as oppose to 125 kHz for traditional MOSFET solutions, reducing both size and cost.

Thus the new book “GaN Power Devices and Applications” by Alex Lidow, CEO of EPC (Efficient Power Conversion Corporation) comes at the right time. Alex was the co-inventor of the Silicon power MOSFET in the 1970s; and was the CEO of International Rectifier for 12 years. “GaN devices have gone from technical curiosity in the first years of the millennium to becoming mainstream. The evidence of this claim is documented with this book”, he stated in his foreword.

We at Power Electronics Europe underline this statement, since we have published numerous articles, conference reviews, interviews, and market news since the appearance of GaN.

The fundamentals of using discrete and ICs are discussed in the first half of the 278-pages book (three chapters on GaN Technology and Devices, GaN Basics, GaN Reliability and Lifetime Projections) followed by detailed application examples (GaN for DC-DC Conversion, GaN in Lidar, GaN Devices for Motor Drive Applications, GaN in Space) complemented by the final chapter “From Discretes to ICs”.

Since GaN technology is progressing very fast at the beginning of each chapter a QR code helps to stay updated on every topic, i. e. GaN ICs. “Next generation GaN ICs will include complete closed-loop buck converters, three-phase motor drives, multi-channel laser drivers, and multi-level converters with digital interface and possible full digital control”, Lidow expects. Thus this hard-back book, priced at $108.00 at Amazon and Digi-Key, is a guide for designers and students alike to become familiar with this exiting technology.

Achim Scharf

PEE editor

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