Innovation Accompanies Steady Growth In Power Devices

The power devices market may be small, but it has a strong tradition of pioneering important advanced technologies.

Within the microelectronics world, the power devices industry stands apart. There are very few standards, and overall it represents only about 10% of the mainstream semiconductor business. Applications cover a broad range, including industrial, automotive, traction motors (used in transportation and heavy industries), high voltage DC, home appliances and wind power.

However, its overall impact defies its size: the power devices industry is characterized by very high levels of innovation. New, advanced technologies like deep etching, the use of SOI, SiC, GaN or thin wafers are examples of some of the solutions pioneered by this industry. Thin wafers and SOI, which are being developed to significantly reduce the on-state resistance (Rds(on)) for greater efficiency are targeting mid-power devices (< 600V). GaN and SiC are targeting mid to very high power density (600V to more than tens of kVolts) applications.

While the overall growth rates are not subject to the explosive spurts seen elsewhere in the microelectronics world, the power devices sector of the industry is generally marked by relatively strong and steady growth. In recent years, it grew at a rate of about 25%, from about $16 billion in 2003 to $20 billion in 2004.

Current market growth is slowing slightly to about 15-20%. In 2007, Yole forecasts that it will reach $25 billion, following the mainstream semiconductors trend.

One small but high-growth sector is SiC power devices. While SiC represented only $12M in 2004, we expect it to grow more than eight-fold in the next few years, reaching more than $100M by 2009, with a very high penetration rate expected in the automotive industry (hybrid cars) and consumer applications, following a decrease in SiC device price.

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