Using optical, or light-based components to achieve noise suppression in electronics circuits has been a long-established practice. But over the last decade, the concept of using non-optically isolated components has been gaining steam, according to a market research study from IHS Markit.
The firm projects the market for non-optically isolated components to more than double, from $343 million in 2018 to $767 million by 2024. IHS says that while industrial applications will continue to constitute the largest sector, the key growth sector will be automotive, particularly in electric vehicles (see table below)
“The increased use in automotive is not due to giant leaps forward in technology, but customer familiarity with the products and the fact that electric vehicle sales keep growing each year,” says Jamie Fox, an analyst with IHS Markit through an e-mail interview with FierceElectronics.
The study noted that the combination of declining battery prices and global warming concerns will help drive the need for more isolated components, though it still remains unclear whether optically isolated or non-optically isolated parts will win in the long run. Fox added that non-optical isolation is gaining design-ins because of advantages such as faster speed for communication—a key requirement in newer applications. Other attributes of non-optical isolation include long lifetime, robustness, good timing specifications, and favorable power consumption.
The end application will be a key factor. According to the study, using non-optically isolated components for medium and low-end applications is not cost-competitive. Also, for some applications, any additional value of changing to non-optical solutions is not worth the risk of a new technology, compared to continuing with a tried-and-tested and reliable optical product.
The number of companies supplying non-optically isolated components is starting to grow. According to the study, Analog Devices (ADI), NVE, Texas Instruments (TI) and Silicon Labs have long been the major players. More recently, Fox noted that Infineon has gained a presence because of its emphasis on automotive applications. He added that ADI, TI, and Silicon Labs remain the dominant players as NVE has not grown much recently.
According to the study, other companies now offering non-optically isolated components include Intersil, Maxim, NXP, STMicroelectronics, and Rohm.