In the second part of this interview, iDEAL Semiconductor CTO, David Jauregui, looks to the future of SuperQ™ technology, its adoption and forthcoming challenges.
Question: Why did the industry seem to give up on high voltage (HV) silicon?
DJ: We have chosen to develop SuperQ on silicon first as a ‘controlled risk’ approach. The combination of method and material provides a long runway for device improvement, within a known ecosystem. System designers have mastered the use of silicon over many decades. From a design perspective, everything is familiar with SuperQ devices; the gate drive is traditional +20V or +30V rating, 3V to 4V thresholds, avalanche capabilities and so on. However, with SuperQ devices designers can rely on improved R DS(ON) performance, lower switching losses and lower energy storage in the device.
A significant risk in the power device market is supply. This $35B market is predicted to grow significantly to around $50B by 2027 because of widespread electrification. Today, there are about three hundred 200mm / 300mm silicon fabs in global operation while only about ten 150mm fabs are silicon carbide (SiC) capable. Some of the newer fabs that are being built are 200mm capable, but these are in the early days and the industry needs technologies that can be built at scale.
SuperQ can be built in any one of the 300 200mm or 300mm silicon fabs around the world with excellent
throughput, and this level of supply chain capacity will be critical to support 50% industry growth in less than five years.
Question: For now, SuperQ is a silicon-based technology – what other materials can it be applied to?
DJ: Because SuperQ is a platform technology, or essentially a process technology, it can be used to build
multiple power devices including diodes, MOSFETs and IGBTs. As it is developed on a CMOS process flow, it can also be used for power ICs. Each and every one of these products will reap the benefits of more effective voltage blocking and improved conduction (R DS(ON) ).
When considering other materials, the beauty of SuperQ as a power device architecture is its ability be leveraged on virtually any semiconductor material – including diamond! It can extend the resistance-per-unit-area (R sp ) limits of wide bandgap (WBG) power devices by over two orders of magnitude from the 1D limits that they have today. This means SuperQ could improve WBG by the same margin that it is already improving silicon. We see a tremendous demand in the silicon-dominated sub-850V market which, today, is around 95% of the overall ~$35B power market.
Question: What are likely to be the greatest challenges going forward?
DJ: I think educating the industry that there is a strong and viable alternative to WBG available will be a key challenge for iDEAL. To be clear, we are not here to say silicon will always be the correct choice. Nor are we saying that WBG devices do not have their respective value in specific applications.
We do fundamentally believe that today, most of the market is using silicon and is looking for improvements that balance cost and performance, regardless of device material, structure, design, etc. Silicon continues to deliver this balance and when combined with iDEAL SuperQ technology, silicon will continue to deliver the necessary balance of cost and performance for the foreseeable future.
Therefore, we believe the greatest challenge is educating the industry on the topic of which technology better balances their design requirements, rather than driving the industry to adopt a new technology node simply because it believes there is no alternative.