MADISON, Wis. -- As the demand for both hybrid and electric vehicles is growing, the chip industry's expectation for the power electronic market is also ballooning.
Energized by demand from power supplies, photovoltaic (PV) inverters and industrial motor drives, “the emerging market for Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN) power semiconductors is expected to grow a remarkable factor of 18 during the next 10 years,” reported market research company IHS earlier this year.
The firm's forecast on the annual double digit growth in the power device market revenue has escaped hardly anyone's notice.
Many semiconductor companies are "pinning their hopes on the future of power devices," said Yoshiaki Yoshida, board member of Tokyo-based Advantest Corp., in a recent phone interview with EE Times. Advantest is a leading manufacture of automatic test equipment for the semiconductor industry.
Power chips today in small devices such as mobile phones and other CE devices are well established and well standardized, he noted. At issue are the big systems -- such as HEV/EV, electrical grids, smart homes, smart cities, and powertrains for subway cars -- which demand high voltage and current requirements, Yoshida explained. "Lagging is our efforts in technology development and standardization of those power devices."
This has become the basis for the recent formation of the Power Device Enabling Association, noted the Advantest executive.
[Editor's note: This story was previously reported as a mysterious collaboration among Toyota Motor Corp., Advantest Corp., Dai Nippon Printing Co., and possibly others to "standardize power semiconductor technology."]
The PDEA's intention is clear: Japan hopes to take a lead in this largely untapped high-voltage, high-current power device market.
The Tokyo-based industry association, formally launched in April, is open to any paying subscriber interested in the subject. Although its website is currently available only in Japanese, "we have no intention to exclude membership from abroad," said Yoshida.
To be clear, when it comes to international standards for power devices, IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission)'s SC 47E is taking charge. The group's objective is to prepare international standards for environmentally sound practices in design, manufacture, use and reuse of discrete semiconductor devices -- including terms and definitions, letter symbols, essential ratings and characteristics, measuring methods, and specifications.
The newly formed PDEA has no plans to overstep the IEC's activities.
However, Yoshida, who also serves as PDEA's director, stressed, "We believe that the IEC's power device standardization activities -- participated in by semiconductor companies -- will greatly benefit from the input and varying perspectives from users of power electronics [i.e., carmakers]; material suppliers and testing equipment vendors."