GaN and SiC take design engineers into a new frequency spectrum

Article By : Majeed Ahmad

GaN semiconductors require more attention to disciplined power and thermal management skills.

EDN and EE Times are conducting regular reviews of our editorial coverage, seeking to fill the gap between our offerings and our readers’ appetite for information. Our brain trust for this project is the EDN Editorial Advisory Board, a panel of industry luminaries—CTOs, executives, and university professors —who will help us understand where the electronics industry is heading, and unearth the knowledge the engineering and business communities need to keep abreast of during this time of rapid changes.

logo for the EDN editorial advisory board

Wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) are the new frontline in power conversion, and that takes design engineers into a whole new frequency spectrum, as well as power density and form factor opportunities.

That means engineers must have an intimate knowledge of these new engineering frontlines, and they must continuously update their skillsets for this new power management realm. Alex Lidow, a power design veteran and CEO of Efficient Power Conversion (EPC) highlighted the engineering issues driven by the adoption of WBG semiconductors in a recent talk with the EDN Editorial Advisory Board.

photo of Alex Lidow at a microscope

Layout, EMI, and thermal management will continue to play a crucial role in GaN-based designs, according to Lidow.

Lidow acknowledged that while SiC is more straightforward for users, GaN requires more attention to disciplined power and thermal management skills. “The dimensions of thermal and mechanical simulations are different for GaN designs, and they are still evolving,” Lidow said.

The common problems for design engineers relate to surface: efficient thermal design and layout. How do engineers drive GaN devices? How do you lay it out and manage it thermally? Why are the features so complicated to understand? Finally, what are the new design tools available?

Design engineers need to acquire a new set of fundamental skills to be on top of migration toward higher power density GaN devices. “Thermal mechanics is far more mysterious for GaN-centric designs,” Lidow noted. “How engineers are going to manage the EMI issues will also be a critical design consideration.”

This article was originally published on EDN.

Majeed Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of EDN, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.

Related articles:

Leave a comment