SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A startup led by chip veteran Alex Lidow has officially announced its formation, disclosed its supply-chain partners and unveiled its first products in the emerging gallium nitride (GaN) arena.
The startup, Efficient Power Conversion Corp. (EPC), is not going after the traditional market for GaN, which is the radio-frequency (RF) sector. Instead, using a GaN-on-silicon technology, EPC (El Segundo, Calif.) is launching a line of GaN transistors for power management applications, a market dominated by traditional power MOSFETs over the last several decades.
EPC is looking to take share--or dethrone--the power MOSFET in applications like audio systems, LCD TVs, notebooks, servers and other products. EPC claims to have developed a proprietary enhancement-mode GaN transistor technology that will ultimately replace power MOSFETs. In total, the GaN transistor market is expected to hit $264 million by 2013, according to iSuppli Corp.
Ironically, EPC will go toe-to-toe with Lidow's former firm--International Rectifier Corp. (IR)--which recently rolled out a competitive GaN line. But it is unlikely that the power MOSFET suppliers--such as Fairchild, Infineon, IR, TI, Vishay and others--will throw in the towel and give the market away to EPC.
Still, both EPC and IR believe that today's power MOSFETs are hitting the performance wall, thereby propelling the need for a new technology.
"EPC's GaN-on-silicon power transistors represent the first major breakthrough in power conversion technology since the development of the commercial power MOSFET. We have developed a very cost effective and reliable technology that is also very easy for anyone with power MOSFET experience to use in a way that will significantly boost their power management system performance" said Lidow, EPC's co-founder and chief executive.
''In the same way that power MOSFETs displaced the bipolar transistor in the 1980s, GaN transistors will displace power MOSFETs in the coming years,'' said Lidow, who was the former CEO of IR.
There are other dynamics in play as well. According to IMS Research, Cree Inc. will roll out what appears to be a rival MOSFET based on silicon carbide (SiC). There are GaN-based power devices coming from EPC, Fujitsu, IR and others, while several other companies are pursuing the release of GaN Schottky diodes, according to IMS.
The SiC and GaN power device market will be worth over $160 million by 2013, said Josh Flood, an analyst at IMS Research. "The next three years will be an important stage in the development of the SiC and GaN power device market,'' he said. ''Applications other than PFC power supplies are forecast to begin to adopt these new power devices and other established power semiconductor suppliers have indicated they will be introducing new SiC and GaN power devices to the market in the near future."