The pulsed RF power device market in the frequency range of 4-18 GHz is expected to show continued solid growth due to the conversion to SiC and GaN technology over the next five years. While the sales trends for many global electronics markets such as mobile devices are driven by consumer spending, pulsed RF power devices can take advantage of defense spending, which is independent of consumer volatility. RF power devices are used in transportation safety and the military, which are markets that were less affected by the global economic downturn. Specific applications include radars and other communications for the military, weather, marine systems, and air traffic control systems such as avionics transponders.
Many semiconductor manufacturers traditionally focused on RF chips for consumer electronics are poised to enter this market to diversify their product portfolio and make it more immune to consumer spending cycles. Pulsed RF power device markets are becoming more competitive amid the availability of more viable options such as gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC)-based devices compared to conventional silicon-based technologies. While gallium arsenide (GaAs)-based devices are the core of most microwave RF power chips, it is GaN that will drive growth over the next five years. This material system offers inherent benefits of operating at a significantly higher voltage, thermal conductivity and power levels, but with enhanced power consumption, that are beyond the capacity for GaAs, enabling new applications. A new ABI Research study, “Pulsed RF Power Semiconductors” evaluates the market for devices that have greater than 5 watts of peak output power and frequencies of operation up to 18 GHz. This ABI Research report analyzes the avionics, Sub-1 GHz, L-Band, S-Band, C-Band, X-Band and Ku-Band radar markets, and indicates positive growth forecasts through 2018 when the market is expected to exceed $250 million.
The combination of excellent switching performance, low on-resistance and high breakdown voltage make devices from market players like ROHM Semiconductor ideal replacements to silicon power MOSFETs and IGBTs in applications such as solar inverters, three-phase inverters, DC-DC converters, uninterruptible power supplies and motor drives. ROHM Semiconductor recently announced the release of two new 1200V SiC MOSFETs that are designed to deliver cost-effective, breakthrough performance. Among other notable market developments, Microsemi recently announced new 650V SiC Schottky diodes for high-power industrial applications in aerospace, welding, and battery charging. However, SiC growth prospects depend on the solar inverter and electric vehicle markets, which have underperformed estimates in recent years.
Cree, headquartered in Durham, NC, founded through SiC research at North Carolina State University in Raleigh has been a leader in high-power and RF SiC and GaN technology for several decades. It leveraged US government research funding and its SiC substrate technology for not only high power military device applications but also consumer-oriented commercial and residential energy-efficient GaN-based solid-state LED lighting as well, which has blossomed into a core business with even greater growth prospects.
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