With the adoption of silicon carbide (SiC) by Tesla in 2018 and gallium nitride by Xiaomi in 2020, the third-generation semiconductor has finally gained market recognition and ushered in development opportunities after 30 or 40 years of development. Since then, the third generation of semiconductors in the new energy vehicles, consumer electronics, and other areas of rapid development.
With the development of the third-generation semiconductor in full swing, gallium oxide, aluminum nitride, diamond, and other fourth-generation semiconductor materials have also begun to attract attention. Among them, gallium oxide (Ga2O3) is the fourth-generation semiconductor material that has been widely concerned and recognized by the international industry.
Japan is at the forefront of gallium oxide research. The first gallium oxide power device was reported in Japan in 2012, a high-quality gallium oxide single crystal substrate was introduced in 2015, and a homogeneous epitaxial wafer was introduced in 2016. Since then, device research results based on gallium oxide materials began to explode.
Previously, gallium oxide substrates were mainly produced by the EFG method.
EFG method requires crystal growth in a high temperature and oxygen-containing environment of about 1800℃, which has high requirements for the growth environment. Crucible needs materials with high temperature and oxygen resistance, and cannot pollute the crystal and other characteristics. Given performance and cost, only precious metal iridium is suitable for gallium oxide melt. Iridium, however, is expensive, costing three times as much as gold. A six-inch device requires several kilograms of iridium, equivalent to a large chunk of gold, and the crucible alone costs more than six million dollars, making it difficult to scale up the number of devices for mass production.
The third generation VS the fourth generation
The third generation of semiconductors refers to wide-bandgap semiconductors, including silicon carbide (SIC) and gallium nitride (GaN), two materials with bandwidths of more than 3eV, which are just beginning to be used on a large scale.
The fourth generation of semiconductors refers to ultra-wide bandgap semiconductors, including gallium oxide (Ga2O3), Diamond, and aluminum nitride (AlN). Gallium oxide is the only one of these materials that have made the big breakthrough (6 inches) and are expected to be used on a large scale in the next 3-5 years, with Japan leading the way.
Compared with silicon-based devices, the power loss of silicon carbide is 1/7 of that of silicon-based devices, which has a good energy-saving effect. Gallium oxide power loss is 1/7 of silicon carbide, that is, 1/49 of silicon-based devices, that is, 2%.
Silicon carbide is often used as a power device, in the new energy vehicles to play an energy-saving effect, when the heat dissipation is small, you can optimize the heat dissipation system, and it will become light and cheap. At present, copper, gold and silver, and other precious metals are commonly used in the market, while better materials, such as graphene, aluminum nitride, diamond, etc. have a better heat dissipation effect and have the potential to optimize the heat dissipation system.
Gallium oxide is the only semiconductor material with a wide bandgap that can be grown by the melt method. The cost of its 6-inch substrate could drop to around $200 in three to five years and $50 in mass production. A silicon carbide substrate of the same size costs about $700.
Gallium oxide forms wafer substrates quickly and can be used by the melt method. This is like sticking a chopstick into honey and pulling it out. It has formed a single crystal, which grows two centimeters in an hour, nearly 100 times faster than other materials. The crystals produced by melt, like snow melting into water and then ice, are of very good quality, whereas the deposition of gas molecules into crystals is slow and difficult to improve.
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