Analyst firm Omdia recently lowered by $1 billion its long-term market projection for two types of emerging power semiconductors based on slower demand for applications and lower prices.
However, Omdia said silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductor market projections will continue on the increase by more than 10% annually for the next decade and will pass $5 billion by 2029, about $1 billion less than the firm’s forecast of a year ago.
Both SiC and GaN have been a source of excitement in recent years for chipmakers and investors. Last year, analysts projected impressive growth. One firm, Research N Reports, predicted 50% annual growth to reach a total market size of nearly $36 billion in 2026, a figure far higher than Omdia has forecast.
That excitement has led to investments by semi makers such as Cree, which announced a massive upstate New York fab for SiC chips opening in 2022 to meet the demand from the auto industry.
But Omdia said demand for almost all applications has slowed since 2018 and average device prices fell in 2019. The SiC and GaN power semiconductor market was $571 million in 2018 and is expected to reach $854 by the end of 2020, Omdia said in a June report available to subscribers.
Omdia cautioned that its forecasts don’t take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus has devastated car sales in the U.S. and many countries and slowed interest in hybrid and electric vehicles. Vehicles are a major user of power semiconductors.
Going forward, hybrid and electric vehicles are set to be the largest segment using SiC and GaN through the coming decade, with power supplies second largest, Omdia said.
SiC metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETS) are very popular with manufacturers, and declining prices will prompt faster adoption of them, said Richard Eden, senior principal analyst for power semiconductors at Omdia.
By contrast GaN power transistors and GaN system integrated circuits have only come to market recently. GaN has higher cost-reduction potential than SiC, he said. That’s possible because GaN power devices can be grown on either silicon or sapphire substrates, which are less expensive than SiC.
Sales of GaN ICs from Power Integrations, Texas Instruments and Navitas Semiconductor are forecast to rise faster than GaN transistors, Eden said.
Eden said that SiC and GaN power devices have been subjected to trillions of house of device field experience, and there don’t appear to be any unexpected reliability problems with them. “In fact, they usually appear better than silicon,” Omdia said.
End products with GaN transistors and system ICs are in mass production, including USB type C power adapters and chargers for fast charging of cell phones and notebook computers. GaN crystal growth on standard silicon wafers offers “potentially unlimited production capacity,” the firm added.