Power Semiconductors Weekly+ Vol. 04
3 Ways Semiconductors Enhance Automation and Efficiency
Every customer I speak with wants a higher level of automation and control through more efficient systems that maximize productivity. What energizes me is to see how sometimes small innovations at the component level can result in meaningful cost, energy and time savings at the system level.
Looking at the spectrum of applications our company enables – from robotics to factory automation, grid, home automation and many other industrial systems – three consistent trends stand out to me:
Additional data enables systems to act and react more quickly and precisely to the world around them. This capability is critical for systems involved in automation. But this also means there’s a greater focus on processing data quickly and efficiently throughout the system.
We also now have the ability to identify things we couldn’t sense before. Consider our millimeter-wave radar sensing technology, which enables almost any system to precisely detect objects and movement. By taking technology that was originally large, complex and expensive and making it smaller, easier to use and more affordable, TI mmWave radar sensors are making higher precision sensing more accessible.
This influx of data coming into the system requires all of us to think creatively about how to effectively manage data and enable faster, smarter decision-making. One approach might be incorporating edge AI-enabled hardware and software into industrial systems to process a higher volume of data and adapt to changing environments in real time.
Managing inputs from a variety of sources can be challenging. For example, our radar sensors can be used to enhance perception in collaborative robots so they can operate and interact effectively and more safely around humans in a way that was impossible to achieve just a few years ago. By also adding vision sensing, the cobot can better see obstacles that are closer in proximity to it. That’s where sensor fusion technology comes in. Incorporating sensor fusion into a system gives designers the flexibility to support multiple sensing modalities – like vision sensing, radar, LIDAR and others – that can help enhance the system’s overall perception.
While I used a cobot as the common example, it’s not difficult to see how these same concepts can apply to other applications to enhance automation and increase efficiency.
The second trend I see is the desire to make systems more energy efficient. Balancing the increasing demand for higher performance while trying to keep overall system size the same – or shrink it down – requires us to reduce the power consumption of our systems. This is also true of battery-operated systems that need to meet performance demands and stick to a fixed power budget.
New methods of improving energy efficiency are emerging across nearly every application and subsystem. We see it in medical applications that are trying to pack more sensors into their existing system, and in electric vehicles where carmakers are trying to increase driving range through more power-efficient batteries.
We also see this in HVAC systems. Up until a few years ago, all residential HVAC systems used a single-stage compressor. Today, we see more and more systems moving to variable speed compressors that enable a much more efficient energy usage overall.
Variable-speed compressors are managed by specialized processing technology designed for real-time control applications, and until recently, this technology was expensive and complex to implement. By using more affordable real-time control microcontrollers (MCUs), like our C2000 and Sitara MCUs, engineers have access to technology that can help maximize motor control and increase energy efficiency within that same system. Transitioning residential houses to variable-speed HVAC systems has the potential to result in substantial energy savings across the grid.
I’m excited to see how real-time control innovations that work with wide-bandgap technology like gallium nitride (GaN) will drive breakthroughs in system efficiency and power density in data center power supplies, solar inverters, fast chargers for personal electronics and other power-delivery applications.
While our world continues to become more connected on a personal level, there are also benefits to enhancing connectivity from a business perspective.
For example, companies that add more sensing and connectivity capabilities to their factories may help reduce power usage in areas of buildings that are inactive or help adjust production based on changes in demand. This level of flexibility is fueled by industrial communications and both wired and wireless technologies like Ethernet, controller area network, Bluetooth® and Zigbee®.
Now apply that concept to a city. By using wireless mesh networks, utility companies are better able to monitor their networks and adapt accordingly. This enhanced connectivity, combined with energy storage systems such as residential solar home systems, can help service providers adjust energy usage during peak hours. Enhancing connectivity in systems supporting buildings and smart cities can enable businesses to increase productivity to a new level that was not possible to achieve in the past.
Our passion to make electronics more affordable through semiconductors is one of the reasons we want to work alongside our customers to enable smarter, more efficient and better-connected systems. By offering multiple ways to create and optimize their systems, we can help fuel the next wave of innovation that can sense, process and react faster than anything we’ve seen in the past.
Original – Texas Instruments
onsemi Receives Recognition for Third Straight Year
onsemi, a leader in intelligent power and sensing technologies, was named the Most Sustainable Company in the Semiconductor Industry for 2022 by World Finance. This recognition emphasizes onsemi’s continued focus to deliver on the promise of a sustainable future through products and a commitment to achieving net zero by 2040. With this award, World Finance recognizes companies for being an agent of change for climate sustainability.
“We are addressing climate change on two distinct fronts – both through our sustainable ecosystem of products and through our sustainable business practices,” said Kim Luu, senior director of sustainability and ESG at onsemi. “Our technologies allow for energy efficiencies and optimized power consumption across high-emission industries. Additionally, energy efficiency solutions across our operations are critical to our greenhouse gas emissions reduction roadmap.”
onsemi is regularly recognized by the most prestigious ratings organizations for its sustainability performance. In 2022 alone, the company has already received the following awards:
- Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable Companies
- Bloomberg Gender Equality Index
- Corporate Knight’s Clean200
- EcoVadis Platinum Level Recognition
- Newsweek’s America’s Most Responsible Companies
- World’s Most Ethical Companies
Original – onsemi
Renesas Partners with Tata to Accelerate Progress in Advanced Electronics for India and Emerging Markets
Renesas Electronics Corporation, a premier supplier of advanced semiconductor solutions, announced a strategic partnership with Tata Motors Ltd. (TML) and Tejas Networks Ltd. (Tejas), both Tata Group companies, on the design, development and manufacturing of Renesas’ semiconductor solutions for enhancing innovation across electronics systems for the Indian and emerging markets.
These joint endeavors extend the companies’ longstanding relationship as technology and business partners, including the recently announced Next-generation EV Innovation Center (NEVIC) jointly established by Renesas and Tata Group’s Tata Elxsi in March 2022.
The future of automotive systems design lies in a vehicle-centralized, zone-oriented electronic and electrical (E/E) architecture. Renesas and TML will collaborate on developing next-generation automotive electronics to drive leadership performance and scalability for vehicles. Renesas with deep expertise in semiconductor technology will partner with TML to accelerate the development of electric and connected vehicles to further enhance TML’s pre-eminence and market-leading position. To effectively address evolving customers’ aspirations, Renesas and TML will explore a non-exclusive partnership on emerging technologies such as ADAS.
Renesas will collaborate with Tejas for implementing next-generation wireless network solutions. This includes design and development of semiconductor solutions for radio units (RU) used in telecom networks, from 4G, 5G, to open radio access network (O-RAN), which enables open and flexible 5G RAN deployments, in addition to allowing wider interoperability. The companies aim to roll out products and solutions initially for India and aim to expand its footprint in the global markets.
Additionally, Renesas and Tata Consultancy Services Limited (TCS), a company of Tata Group, will partner by establishing a Joint System Solution Development Center in Bangalore. The planned innovation center will focus on comprehensive system solutions for the IoT, Infrastructure, Industrial and Automotive segments by leveraging Renesas’ semiconductor solutions and TCS’ industry experience.
“We see great potential in collaborating with Renesas in areas like automotive electronics and present and future telecom networks. The collaboration will accelerate our presence in these areas in India as well as globally,” said Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons.
“This partnership brings two industry leading companies closer together, creating numerous benefits,” said Hidetoshi Shibata, President and CEO at Renesas. “Renesas and Tata will support the acceleration of progress in advanced electronics and its multitudes of applications for the Indian and emerging markets, which sets us both on a path for continued success.”
Original – Renesas Electronics
Research Facility to Help UK Take the Lead in Semi R&D
The National Epitaxy Facility, a collaboration between the Universities of Sheffield, Cambridge and University College London (UCL), has been awarded £12 million in funding from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and will be a critical element of the UK’s strategy in semiconductor technologies, a press release reads.
The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has launched an inquiry into the UK’s semiconductor industry to take stock of its capabilities and what the government can do to strengthen the sector amid concerns over the future of global supply chains.
The National Epitaxy Facility led by Sheffield is said to be built on more than “40 years semiconductor and epitaxy research” in the University’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering. Its role is to deliver bespoke semiconductor wafers to “world-class semiconductor research projects” in universities and industry across the UK and to provide access to the expertise and resources needed to progress from basic discovery to mass manufacture for major economic/societal impact for the UK.
I am delighted that UKRI has continued to fund and support the National Epitaxy Facility at this critical time for the UK to increase its technological innovation in semiconductors. Semiconductors have been the backbone of modern technological society for more than 60 years and the semiconductor industry has had an estimated overall economic value of around $8tn. Practically every aspect of our modern world is dependent on semiconductor devices, from silicon microchips that control computers, mobile phones, aircraft and even washing machines, to the internet, electric vehicles and LED lighting that has revolutionized global energy efficiency, said Professor Jon Heffernan, Director of the National Epitaxy Facility and Professor in Electrical Engineering at the University of Sheffield, in the press release.
The new funding means the facility can continue to support R&D in the UK for the next five to ten years.
Original – Evertiq
BorgWarner Plans Poland Power Electronics Tech Centre
BorgWarner has announced a planned investment of EUR 2m in a new technical centre in Krakow, Poland, that will focus on the development of power electronics for the automotive sector, including highly advanced controllers, inverters and DC/DC converters.
With this strategically positioned location near important European development sites, BorgWarner says the move strengthens its electrification efforts and is positioned to create more than 250 new jobs by 2026.
The focus of this new technical centre will be the development and design of system solutions for advanced power electronics, including hardware and software.
Original – Just Auto
ABB and CERN Partner to Study Electric Motor Energy Savings
CERN and ABB are to study electric motor energy use at CERN, and will publish the results for public use.
ABB described the project as “non-commercial” and said that it will demonstrate how data insight and service expertise can be applied to make better decisions about saving energy and increasing reliability at large-scale research facilities. “Currently, motors used to power pumps, fans, compressors and cooling towers account for 20% of CERN’s total energy consumption, or approximately 260 gigawatt hours,” it added, later clarifying to Electronics Weekly that 260GWh is 20% of total annual consumption.
“We have partnered with ABB to generate insights to help reduce our own electricity footprint,” said CERN business development head Han Dols. “We hope to inspire other big science facilities and industry to do the same and, as such, have agreed with ABB to share the learnings of this project publicly.”
Digital performance data will be collected from hundreds of industrial electric motors, and ABB will identify where and how much energy can be saved by adjusting schedules and loads or upgrading to high-efficiency motors and variable speed drives. “Typically, this approach can yield 15% or more in energy savings,” according to ABB.
Data will also be used for condition monitoring to maintain cooling and ventilation system reliability.
A digital twin of the systems will be created to CERN to carry out diagnostics and off-line testing of scenarios as it plans new cooling systems. The project’s final output is an energy-saving for CERN.
Original – Electronics Weekly
Marelli Presents Its New 800 Volt Silicon Carbide Inverters Platform at Dritev
Marelli, a leading global automotive supplier, has developed a new, complete platform of 800 Volt Silicon Carbide (SiC) inverters, ensuring improvements in terms of inverters’ size, weight and especially efficiency, which is a critical parameter in electric vehicles. The platform is presented for the first time at the International VDI Congress “Dritev” (Drivetrain Transmission Electrification in Vehicles), held in Baden Baden, Germany, on July 6 and 7 2022, where Marelli is showcasing its electrification technologies at its booth, located at stand B, on the ground floor.
Due to its excellent performance at high temperature and high voltage – enabling smaller, lighter and more efficient solutions – Silicon Carbide is recognized as a technology of choice for power electronics. Thus, it is particularly suitable for inverters, which convert DC (Direct Current) power derived from batteries to AC (Alternating Current) electric power used in electric vehicles’ motors. In addition to this, Marelli’s new 800 Volt inverter platform also features an optimized thermal structure, thanks to innovative structural and cooling channel designs that drastically reduce the thermal resistance between the SiC components themselves and the cooling liquid. This is a critical aspect in high power applications, where the heat rejection of the power module is significant.
Among the main advantages, the new inverter platform presented by Marelli can extract more energy from the battery at a higher efficiency and secure a significant increase in the driving range of a vehicle. It also ensures faster charging times and better acceleration. Finally, a smaller and more efficient inverter allows a reduction in battery size which delivers cost, weight and sustainability benefits.
“The new inverters platform based on our 800 Volt Silicon Carbide power module technology allows to serve applications where energy use is optimized, the performance is maximized and efficiency is dramatically improved” said Dr. Razvan Panati, Head of Power Electronics Technology of Marelli’s Vehicle Electrification Division. “With a complete range of modular solutions, we are able to offer to our customers more flexibility in terms of packaging, cooling system design and energy storage.”
The software for all the inverters in Marelli’s range is developed in-house by the company and is hosted by an Electric Control Unit located in the same inverter case. The software is compliant with AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) standards and specifically customized for the diagnostic standards required by car makers. Functional Safety requirements are compliant to ASIL D (Automotive Safety Integrity Level D) standard.
The new 800 Volt SiC platform completes the inverters range offered by Marelli, resulting from over ten years of experience, that includes also 400 Volt solutions based both on IGBT (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor) and Silicon Carbide, and Gallium Nitride (GaN)-based converters in development.
The inverters range is part of the solutions Marelli is showcasing at its booth at the 22nd edition of the International VDI Congress “Dritev”, one of the largest industry events in Europe in the field of drivetrain and transmission. At the congress, the company exhibits its portfolio of technologies for vehicle electrification, that includes a full selection of single components, as well as subsystems, up to solutions for the complete integrated vehicle energy management system, applying a “tier 0.5” approach, with the integration of thermal management into the electric powertrain. Alongside inverters, also electric motors, integrated e-axles systems, battery management systems, and solutions for managing all vehicle thermal systems are part of the company’s technological offer.
Original – Marelli
Automotive SiC Power Component Market to Grow to $1bn in 2022 then $3.94bn by 2026
To further improve the power performance of electric vehicles (EV), major global automakers have focused on a new generation of silicon carbide (SiC) power components and have successively launched a number of high-performance car models equipped with corresponding products. According to research by TrendForce, as more and more auto-makers begin to introduce SiC technology into electric drive systems, the market for vehicle SiC power components is forecast to grow to $1.07bn in 2022 then $3.94bn by 2026.
The automotive SiC power component market is currently dominated by major European and American IDMs, notes TrendForce. The key suppliers STM, onsemi, Wolfspeed, Infineon and ROHM have long been deeply involved in this field and have close interactions with major auto-makers and tier-1 manufacturers. The affluence of the automotive market has also impressed the importance of stable supply capacity onto major manufacturers. Therefore, in an effort to exert full control on the supply chain, they have moved successively into the upstream substrate materials field. For example, onsemi acquired GT Advanced Technologies last year.
Major auto-makers have high hopes for SiC and are simultaneously and vigorously participating in the construction of supply chains. From the perspective of China (the world’s largest EV market), auto-makers such as SAIC and GAC have begun to deploy an entire SiC industry chain, which has created invaluable development opportunities for domestic suppliers. At the same time, auto-makers such as BYD and Hyundai have launched their own chip R&D programs, which have injected new vitality into the market.
In addition, the cost-effectiveness of using SiC power components has always been a market concern and its key lies in upstream substrate materials. The industry is experimenting with various methods to further reduce costs, including new crystal growth approaches (UJ-Crystal, Jing Ge Ling Yu), high-efficiency wafer processing technology (Soitec, Disco, Infineon, Lasic Semiconductor Technology), and following Wolfspeed in migrating from 6-inch to 8-inch wafer technology.
With continuing breakthroughs in SiC materials technology and the maturity of chip structure and module packaging processes, the penetration rate of SiC power components into the automotive market is expected to maintain an upward trajectory and will gradually extend from existing high-end vehicle applications to medium- and low-end vehicles in order to accelerate the process of vehicle electrification, concludes TrendForce.
Original – Semiconductor Today
STMicroelectronics Hosts French “Electronique 2030” Program Launch at its Crolles Site
STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications, hosted the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, along with the Minister of the Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of Higher Education and Research Sylvie Retailleau, the Minister Delegate for Democratic Renewal, Government Spokesperson Olivier Veran, the Minister Delegate to Foreign Trade, Economic Attractiveness and French Nationals Abroad Olivier Becht, and the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton, as well as representatives from national, regional and local authorities and managers at ST research, development and manufacturing site of Crolles, near Grenoble (France) for the launch of the French “Electronique 2030” Program. ST’s partners from the semiconductor and electronics industry were also present, including GlobalFoundries, CEA-Leti and Soitec.
The “Electronique 2030” program, part of the “France 2030” investment plan announced in October 2021, aims to keep France in a leading position and address current and future challenges in electronics from upstream research to applications. Semiconductor components are strategic for many industries and the whole economy. They directly support the European Green Deal objectives for the transition to a low carbon economy with the production of highly energy-efficient, technologies, devices, and solutions which are the backbone for smart mobility and Internet of Things applications.
At the European Level, 20 European Member States have decided to build upon the success of a first “IPCEI on Microelectronics (IPCEI ME)” to launch a new IPCEI, “The IPCEI on Microelectronics and Communications Technologies (IPCEI ME/CT)”, in coordination with the European Commission. This new IPCEI, with more than 100 participants, will target the whole value chain of semiconductors, supporting not only research, development, and innovation (RDI), but also First Industrial Deployment (FID). The IPCEI ME/CT is organized into four workstreams: SENSE (digital perception), THINK (embedded processing), ACT (power electronics), and COMMUNICATE (components for Communications).
Today, the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron announced France’s support to ST, as well as to 14 other French leading participants in the IPCEI ME/CT, from 2022 to 2026. It directly supports ST’s participation in the four workstreams, through its R&D and manufacturing sites, notably at Crolles, Grenoble, Rennes, Rousset, and Tours. This will include R&D in high performance for low power MCUs and technologies, including a new embedded Phase Change Memory FD-SOI technology, AI at the edge using innovative embedded memory CMOS technologies architectures, innovative power electronics using GaN on Silicon, smart optical sensors using advanced 3D integration, and embedding AI, Radio frequency technologies and devices for 5G and 6G, among others.
Funding for the IPCEI ME/CT is subject to approval by the European Commission.
Original – STMicroelectronics
SwissSEM Reveals Next Products
PSIC 2022, the 5th Power Semiconductor International Conference – Power Semiconductor’s Key Technologies and Market of China New Energy Vehicle was held on 14-15 July in Wuhu, Anhui Province, China. With the topic of “Innovation and Low Carbon – Sustainable Development of New Energy Vehicle and Power Semiconductor”, the conference focused on basic chips, packaging materials, equipment, devices, electric drives and vehicle industry chain resources. Nearly 400 professionals from upstream and downstream of the vehicle, electric drive and power semiconductor industry chain attended the conference.
The COO of SwissSEM Mr. Sven Matthias gave a presentation on the topic of “Innovation and Breakthrough in Industrial and Vehicle IGBTs”. He introduced the outstanding performance of i20 IGBT chipset and ED type module, and released the HEEV SiC module for new energy vehicles and ST type module for new energy generation and industrial.
At the same time, the booths of SwissSEM was widely noticed by attendees, and they had an in-depth communication about SwissSEM’s products and technologies.
Original – SwissSEM
WIN Semiconductors Introduces 0.12 µm RF GaN on SiC Technology
WIN Semiconductors, one of the world’s largest pure-play compound semiconductor foundries has expanded its portfolio of RF GaN technologies with the release of a new gallium nitride (GaN) on silicon carbide (SiC) 0.12 μm-gate technology. The NP12-01 mmWave compound semiconductor technology provides increased gain and improved transistor stability factor. The NP12-01 technology is ideal for the high-power amplifiers used in 5G mmWave radio access networks, satellite communications, and radar systems.
Supporting full MMICs, the NP12-01 platform allows customers to develop compact linear or saturated power amplifiers up to 50 GHz. This process is qualified for 28 V operation, and in the 29 GHz band, generates saturated output power over 4 watts/mm with 13.5 dB linear gain and nearly 50% efficiency. When optimized for power added efficiency, NP12-01 provides over 3.5 watts/mm output power and greater than 50% PAE at 29 GHz.
Higher gain and power-added efficiency provided by the NP12-01 platform affords designers a larger trade-space to optimize amplifier performance and chip size to meet increasingly difficult specifications of current generation communication platforms and radar systems. Depending on the function, these high-performance applications require precise optimization of output power, linearity, gain, and efficiency, and a broad trade-space is crucial to balance amplifier performance and product cost.
Original – everything RF
Rad Hard GaN Transistors Offering Highest Density and Efficiency on the Market for Demanding Space Applications Available from EPC
EPC announced the introduction of the EPC7004 radiation-hardened GaN FET. The EPC7004 is a 100 V, 7 mΩ, 160 APulsed, rad-hard GaN FET in a small 6.56 mm2 footprint. The EPC7004 has a total dose radiation rating greater than 1 Mrad and SEE immunity for LET of 85 MeV/(mg/cm2). The EPC7004, along with the rest of the Rad Hard family, EPC7014, EPC7007, EPC7019, EPC7018, are offered in a chip-scale package, the same as the commercial eGaN® FET and IC family. Packaged versions will be available from EPC Space.
With higher breakdown strength, lower gate charge, lower switching losses, better thermal conductivity, and very low on-resistance, power devices based on GaN significantly outperform silicon-based devices and enable higher switching frequencies resulting in higher power densities, higher efficiencies, and more compact and lighter weight circuitry for critical spaceborne missions. GaN devices also support higher total radiation levels and SEE LET levels than silicon solutions.
The EPC7004 joins a family of rad hard products than range from 40 V to 200 V offering significant electrical and radiation performance benefits for applications including DC-DC power, motor drives, lidar, deep probes, and ion thrusters for space applications, satellites, and avionics.
“The 100 V EPC7018 and EPC7004 offer designers different size/power tradeoffs with ultra-low on-resistance enabling a new generation of power conversion and motor drives in space operating at higher frequencies, higher efficiencies, and greater power densities than ever achievable before”, said Alex Lidow, CEO, and co-founder of EPC.
Original – EPC
University of Catania and STMicroelectronics Launch a New Advanced Master’s Program in Power Electronics Devices and Technologies
The University of Catania (Italy) and STMicroelectronics, a global semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications, announced a focused advanced master’s degree program in Power Electronics Devices and Technologies.
Wide Band Gap semiconductor-based technologies are the new frontier of power electronics that guarantee more efficient performance in line with sustainable development. Looking to educate and expand the pool of professionals in the key power technologies for industrial sectors such as automotive, renewable energy, energy conversion and storage, the University of Catania Department of Electrical, Electronic and Information Engineering (DIEEI) and ST are launching an advanced master’s degree program in ‘Power Electronics Devices and Technologies.’
“Training highly skilled professionals in power electronics is strongly demanded by the market to meet the needs identified by macro-trends in energy efficiency and sustainable development,” said Professor Mario Cacciato, coordinator of the Master’s course. “This program offers master’s graduates in various scientific disciplines (STEM) the opportunity to direct their education and training towards topics of great interest for research and industry. In addition, this new Advanced Master’s degree represents a model of synergy between academia and industry aimed at the professional development and future employment of young talents.”
“Developments in power electronics play a key role in energy efficiency processes and make it possible for modern society to meet the challenge of sustainable development. Rapid changes in power electronics require training specialists with multidisciplinary skills,” said Giuseppe Arena, Program Management Office Director, Power Transistor Sub-Group, STMicroelectronics. “By combining theoretical lectures with experimental activities performed with experts from ST adds major value to the training and development of the next generation of highly skilled professionals.”
The new advanced master’s degree offers both theoretical and practical training. Coursework is divided into 7 teaching modules, conducted in English. Lectures will be presented by university professors and professionals from ST, who will also act as mentors in the final internships inside the company’s departments and research laboratories. Moreover, some lectures will be held at ST’s Catania site. Trainees will also participate in seminars led by experts from several major international companies in the sector.
The advanced program is open to graduates holding a master’s degree obtained in the last five years in Electrical Engineering, Electronic Engineering, Automation Engineering, Chemistry, Computer Engineering, Telecommunications Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Chemical Industry Science and Technology. An excellent mastery of English is also required.
The advanced master’s degree program will admit a maximum of 30 participants. It awards 60 university credits (CFU) upon completion. Moreover, the program will award a scholarship to ten participants, while other ten students will receive a contribution to cover tuition fees. Applications must be submitted by 19 September 2022. More information is available at st.com/master-power-electronics.
The Scientific Committee is composed of University of Catania professors Mario Cacciato (coordinator), Giuseppe Compagnini, Guglielmo Guido Condorelli, Salvatore Mirabella, Salvatore Pennisi and Antonio Terrasi, along with Giuseppe Arena, Michele Calabretta, Mario Saggio, Rosario Scollo, Filippo Scrimizzi, and Vincenzo Randazzo of STMicroelectronics.
Original – STMicroelectronics
Japan’s Renesas CEO Says No Plans to Build Chip Production Facilities in U.S.
Japanese semiconductor maker Renesas Electronics Corp. has no plans to build chip factories in the United States and will continue to expand production in Japan instead, chief executive officer Hidetoshi Shibata said on Wednesday.
“When it comes to front-end production, I don’t necessarily believe there are good supplies of ingredients in geographies like Europe or the U.S.,” said Shibata. He was speaking to Reuters in Silicon Valley after meeting with employees of U.S. chip companies that Renesas had acquired in recent years.
Front-end production is the process of creating chips on wafers, round shiny plates of silicon. They are then sent for packaging, often in black plastic casings.
While keeping manufacturing focused in Japan presented risks, with earthquakes sometimes disrupting production, Shibata said Renesas was investing in technologies to cope with challenges from natural disasters. Also, it would keep a stock of chips that it could supply to customers in case of stoppages.
Renesas said in May it would invest 90 billion yen ($650 million) in its previously closed Kofu factory in Japan, revamping it to build power chips – semiconductors that manage electricity.
That expansion is to meet surging demand for electric vehicles. Renesas, whose shareholders include Toyota Motor Corp and automotive supplier Denso Corp, is a major chip supplier for the automotive industry.
Shibata said that, while at a macro level there was “sufficient capacity worldwide to cope with all the demand,” there were still areas of sharp shortages in power management chips and some analog and mixed-signal (analog and digital) chips with larger transistors.
Generally, the smaller the transistors, the faster and more powerful a chip will be. While the latest smartphones have chips with 5 nanometer transistors, the automotive industry uses more mature technology, often 40 nanometers or larger.
Shibata said Renesas’s manufacturing expansion would stick with 40-nanometer or larger technology to meet that demand.
Still, the company continued to design chips that were close to the latest technologies, he said, and its automotive customers were “sampling” its first 7 nanometer chip. But it is made by other chip manufacturers.
Original – Reuters
The Best Semiconductor of Them All?
Silicon is one of the most abundant elements on Earth, and in its pure form the material has become the foundation of much of modern technology, from solar cells to computer chips. But silicon’s properties as a semiconductor are far from ideal.
For one thing, although silicon lets electrons whizz through its structure easily, it is much less accommodating to “holes” — electrons’ positively charged counterparts — and harnessing both is important for some kinds of chips. What’s more, silicon is not very good at conducting heat, which is why overheating issues and expensive cooling systems are common in computers.
Now, a team of researchers at MIT, the University of Houston, and other institutions has carried out experiments showing that a material known as cubic boron arsenide overcomes both of these limitations. It provides high mobility to both electrons and holes, and has excellent thermal conductivity. It is, the researchers say, the best semiconductor material ever found, and maybe the best possible one.
So far, cubic boron arsenide has only been made and tested in small, lab-scale batches that are not uniform. The researchers had to use special methods originally developed by former MIT postdoc Bai Song to test small regions within the material. More work will be needed to determine whether cubic boron arsenide can be made in a practical, economical form, much less replace the ubiquitous silicon. But even in the near future, the material could find some uses where its unique properties would make a significant difference, the researchers say.
The findings are reported today in the journal Science, in a paper by MIT postdoc Jungwoo Shin and MIT professor of mechanical engineering Gang Chen; Zhifeng Ren at the University of Houston; and 14 others at MIT, the University of Houston, the University of Texas at Austin, and Boston College.
Earlier research, including work by David Broido, who is a co-author of the new paper, had theoretically predicted that the material would have high thermal conductivity; subsequent work proved that prediction experimentally. This latest work completes the analysis by confirming experimentally a prediction made by Chen’s group back in 2018: that cubic boron arsenide would also have very high mobility for both electrons and holes, “which makes this material really unique,” says Chen.
The earlier experiments showed that the thermal conductivity of cubic boron arsenide is almost 10 times greater than that of silicon. “So, that is very attractive just for heat dissipation,” Chen says. They also showed that the material has a very good bandgap, a property that gives it great potential as a semiconductor material.
Now, the new work fills in the picture, showing that, with its high mobility for both electrons and holes, boron arsenide has all the main qualities needed for an ideal semiconductor. “That’s important because of course in semiconductors we have both positive and negative charges equivalently. So, if you build a device, you want to have a material where both electrons and holes travel with less resistance,” Chen says.
Silicon has good electron mobility but poor hole mobility, and other materials such as gallium arsenide, widely used for lasers, similarly have good mobility for electrons but not for holes.
“Heat is now a major bottleneck for many electronics,” says Shin, the paper’s lead author. “Silicon carbide is replacing silicon for power electronics in major EV industries including Tesla, since it has three times higher thermal conductivity than silicon despite its lower electrical mobilities. Imagine what boron arsenides can achieve, with 10 times higher thermal conductivity and much higher mobility than silicon. It can be a gamechanger.”
Shin adds, “The critical milestone that makes this discovery possible is advances in ultrafast laser grating systems at MIT,” initially developed by Song. Without that technique, he says, it would not have been possible to demonstrate the material’s high mobility for electrons and holes.
The electronic properties of cubic boron arsenide were initially predicted based on quantum mechanical density function calculations made by Chen’s group, he says, and those predictions have now been validated through experiments conducted at MIT, using optical detection methods on samples made by Ren and members of the team at the University of Houston.
Not only is the material’s thermal conductivity the best of any semiconductor, the researchers say, it has the third-best thermal conductivity of any material — next to diamond and isotopically enriched cubic boron nitride. “And now, we predicted the electron and hole quantum mechanical behavior, also from first principles, and that is also proven to be true,” Chen says.
“This is impressive, because I actually don’t know of any other material, other than graphene, that has all these properties,” he says. “And this is a bulk material that has these properties.”
The challenge now, he says, is to figure out practical ways of making this material in usable quantities. The current methods of making it produce very nonuniform material, so the team had to find ways to test just small local patches of the material that were uniform enough to provide reliable data. While they have demonstrated the great potential of this material, “whether or where it’s going to actually be used, we do not know,” Chen says.
“Silicon is the workhorse of the entire industry,” says Chen. “So, OK, we’ve got a material that’s better, but is it actually going to offset the industry? We don’t know.” While the material appears to be almost an ideal semiconductor, “whether it can actually get into a device and replace some of the current market, I think that still has yet to be proven.”
And while the thermal and electrical properties have been shown to be excellent, there are many other properties of a material that have yet to be tested, such as its long-term stability, Chen says. “To make devices, there are many other factors that we don’t know yet.”
He adds, “This potentially could be really important, and people haven’t really even paid attention to this material.” Now that boron arsenide’s desirable properties have become more clear, suggesting the material is “in many ways the best semiconductor,” he says, “maybe there will be more attention paid to this material.”
For commercial uses, Shin says, “one grand challenge would be how to produce and purify cubic boron arsenide as effectively as silicon. … Silicon took decades to win the crown, having purity of over 99.99999999 percent, or ‘10 nines’ for mass production today.”
For it to become practical on the market, Chen says, “it really requires more people to develop different ways to make better materials and characterize them.” Whether the necessary funding for such development will be available remains to be seen, he says.
The research was supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research, and used facilities of MIT’s MRSEC Shared Experimental Facilities, supported by the National Science Foundation.
Original – MIT
South Korea Targets 340 trillion Won Investment for Chip Supremacy
The South Korean government vowed financial and regulatory support to pave the way for the chip industry’s investment of 340 trillion won ($259 billion) over the next five years and nurturing more than 150,000 skilled workers in the field.
As chips are increasingly being perceived as key economic security assets around the world, South Korea — home to the world’s top two memory chipmakers, Samsung Electronics and SK hynix — has also come up with a more comprehensive road map to further bolster its chip supremacy.
Over the past decade, chips have been the nation’s top export item, with their trade volume making up the largest share of total exports at 19.9 percent. More recently, the chip industry here is facing challenges as it grapples with supply chain disruptions and heightened global competition.
The new scheme aims to ease regulatory hurdles, among other things, for the chip industry overall.
The government plans to raise the allowable floor area ratio of the nation’s two chipmaking complexes in Pyeongtaek and Yongin, both in Gyeonggi Province, to have more cleanrooms, where silicon wafers are manufactured into chips, to help create more jobs. One cleanroom is known to generate some 1,000 new jobs.
The Pyeongtaek complex will see the number of its cleanrooms to grow from 12 to 18, while the number for the Yongin complex will increase from nine to 12.
The overall approval process for new investments and facility expansion within the complexes will get faster and more flexible for speedier decision-making and business planning.
Attracting and retaining more talent in the chip industry is another key part of the new scheme.
More graduate schools will be designated to share the new mission next year, as they will be subject to financial support, including tax benefits. More chip-related classes will be launched in partnership with businesses, even for students majoring in other fields, creating more job opportunities in the industry.
Through a revision to related laws, student enrollment quotas of related departments at schools will be drastically expanded.
A 350 billion won research and development fund is also under consideration, mimicking the Semiconductor Research Corp. in the US, an industry-led technology research consortium.
More resources are also being poured into fostering the nation’s nonmemory chip sector.
Despite its prowess in memory chips, South Korea’s market share in more advanced logic chips remains at a miniscule 3 percent at present. The government aims to elevate this figure to some 10 percent by 2030.
A related budget scheme was also unveiled: 450 billion won for power semiconductors; 500 billion won for automotive semiconductors; and 1.25 trillion won for artificial intelligence semiconductors.
A 1.5 trillion won budget has also been earmarked to support fabless companies in areas including R&D, production and overseas distribution.
In order to bolster the nation’s chip supply chain, the government also aims to localize 50 percent of key materials, parts and equipment for chips by 2030. Currently, the localization rate remains at 30 percent.
“Competition in the chip industry is getting severe,” Trade Minister Lee Chang-yang told reporters during a memorandum signing event held at the head office of Dongjin Semichem, a local chemicals firm that has recently succeeded developing a photoresist for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography — an industry first here.
“We will respond flexibly to market conditions in order to maintain our supergap competitiveness.”
Asked about Seoul’s possible joining of the US-led chip alliance, dubbed “Chip 4,” the minister stressed that “national interests” should be the top priority in related discussions.
The US, South Korea’s largest ally, is pushing the initiative, which aims to counter China’s influence in the region as well as boost its technology prowess. Seoul has not yet disclosed its stance on the issue amid heightened pressure from China, its biggest trading partner.
In the meantime, the chip industry welcomed the government’s renewed chip push, including regulatory easing overall, but expressed disappointment at tax benefits that lagged behind their earlier expectations.
Under the new scheme, tax deductions on new facility investments will be raised by 2 percentage points to 8 to 12 percent, with the benefits given to all companies regardless of their size. Adding to cutting-edge equipment, technologies related to chip testing and designing are also expected to enjoy more tax deductions.
“Tax deductions need to be further extended considering the US is seeking to offer up to 40 percent of tax deductions for new facility investments,” said Yoo Hwan-ik, an industry division chief at the Federation of the Korean Economies, a business lobby here.
Original – Asia News
How China Became Ground Zero for the Auto Chip Shortage
From his small office in Singapore, Kelvin Pang is ready to wager a $23 million payday that the worst of the chip shortage is not over for automakers – at least in China.
Pang has bought 62,000 microcontrollers, chips that help control a range of functions from car engines and transmissions to electric vehicle power systems and charging, which cost the original buyer $23.80 each in Germany.
He’s now looking to sell them to auto suppliers in the Chinese tech hub of Shenzhen for $375 apiece. He says he has turned down offers for $100 each, or $6.2 million for the whole bundle, which is small enough to fit in the back seat of a car and is packed for now in a warehouse in Hong Kong.
“The automakers have to eat,” Pang told Reuters. “We can afford to wait.”
The 58-year-old, who declined to say what he himself had paid for the microcontrollers (MCUs), makes a living trading excess electronics inventory that would otherwise be scrapped, connecting buyers in China with sellers abroad.
The global chip shortage over the past two years – caused by pandemic supply chaos combined with booming demand – has transformed what had been a high-volume, low-margin trade into one with the potential for wealth-spinning deals, he says.
Automotive chip order times remain long around the world, but brokers like Pang and thousands like him are focusing on China, which has become ground zero for a crunch that the rest of the industry is gradually moving beyond.
Globally, new orders are backed up by an average of about a year, according to a Reuters survey of 100 automotive chips produced by the five leading manufacturers.
To counter the supply squeeze, global automakers like General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Nissan Motor Co have moved to secure better access through a playbook that has included negotiating directly with chipmakers, paying more per part and accepting more inventory.
For China though, the outlook is bleaker, according to interviews with more than 20 people involved in the trade from automakers, suppliers and brokers to experts at China’s government-affiliated auto research institute CATARC.
Despite being the world’s largest producer of cars, and leader in electric vehicles (EVs), China relies almost entirely on chips imported from Europe, the United States and Taiwan. Supply strains have been compounded by a zero-COVID lockdown in auto hub Shanghai that ended last month.
As a result, the shortage is more acute than elsewhere and threatens to curb the nation’s EV momentum, according to CATARC, the China Automotive Technology and Research Center. A fledgling domestic chipmaking industry is unlikely to be in a position to cope with demand within the next two to three years, it says.
Pang, for his part, sees China’s shortage continuing through 2023 and deems it dangerous to hold inventory after that. The one risk to that view, he says: a sharper economic slowdown that could depress demand earlier.
FORECASTS ‘HARDLY POSSIBLE’
Computer chips, or semiconductors, are used in the thousands in every conventional and electric vehicle. They help control everything from deploying airbags and automating emergency braking to entertainment systems and navigation.
The Reuters survey conducted in June took a sample of chips, produced by Infineon, Texas Instruments, NXP, STMicroelectronics and Renesas, which perform a diverse range of functions in cars.
New orders via distributors are on hold for an average lead time of 49 weeks – deep into 2023, according to the analysis, which provides a snapshot of the global shortage though not a regional breakdown. Lead times range from 6 to 198 weeks.
German chipmaker Infineon told Reuters it is “rigorously investing and expanding manufacturing capacities worldwide” but said shortages may last until 2023 for chips outsourced to foundries.
“Since the geopolitical and macroeconomic situation has deteriorated in recent months, reliable assessments regarding the end of the present shortages are hardly possible right now,” Infineon said in a statement.
Taiwan chipmaker United Microelectronics Corp told Reuters it has been able to reallocate some capacity to auto chips due to weaker demand in other segments. “On the whole, it is still challenging for us to meet the aggregate demand from customers,” the company said.
TrendForce analyst Galen Tseng told Reuters that if auto suppliers needed 100 PMIC chips – which regulate voltage from the battery to more than 100 applications in an average car – they were currently only getting around 80.
URGENTLY SEEKING CHIPS
The tight supply conditions in China contrast with the improved supply outlook for global automakers. Volkswagen, for example, said in late June it expected chip shortages to ease in the second half of the year. read more
The chairman of Chinese EV maker Nio, William Li, said last month it was hard to predict which chips would be in short supply. Nio regularly updates its “risky chip list” to avoid shortages of any of the more than 1,000 chips needed to run production.
In late May, Chinese EV maker Xpeng Motors (9868.HK) pleaded for chips with an online video featuring a Pokemon toy that had also sold out in China. The bobbing duck-like character waves two signs: “urgently seeking” and “chips.”
“As the car supply chain gradually recovers, this video captures our supply-chain team’s current condition,” Xpeng CEO He Xiaopeng posted on Weibo, saying his company was struggling to secure “cheap chips” needed to build cars.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO SHENZHEN
The scramble for workarounds has led automakers and suppliers to China’s main chip trading hub of Shenzhen and the “gray market”, brokered supplies legally sold but not authorized by the original manufacturer, according to two people familiar with the trade at a Chinese EV maker and an auto supplier.
The gray market carries risks because chips are sometimes recycled, improperly labeled, or stored in conditions that leave them damaged.
“Brokers are very dangerous,” said Masatsune Yamaji, research director at Gartner, adding that their prices were 10 to 20 times higher. “But in the current situation, many chip buyers need to depend on the brokers because the authorized supply chain cannot support the customers, especially the small customers in automotive or industrial electronics.”
Pang said many Shenzhen brokers were newcomers drawn by the spike in prices but unfamiliar with the technology they were buying and selling. “They only know the part number. I ask them: Do you know what this does in the car? They have no idea.”
While the volume held by brokers is hard to quantify, analysts say it is far from enough to meet demand.
“It’s not like all the chips are somewhere hidden and you just need to bring them to the market,” said Ondrej Burkacky, senior partner at McKinsey.
When supply normalizes, there may be an asset bubble in the inventories of unsold chips sitting in Shenzhen, analysts and brokers cautioned.
“We can’t hold on for too long, but the automakers can’t hold on either,” Pang said.
China, where advanced chip design and manufacturing still lag overseas rivals, is investing to decrease its reliance on foreign chips. But that will not be easy, especially given the stringent requirements for auto-grade chips.
MCUs make up about 30% of the total chip costs in a car, but they are also the hardest category for China to achieve self-sufficiency in, said Li Xudong, senior manager at CATARC, adding that domestic players had only entered the lower end of the market with chips used in air conditioning and seating controls.
“I don’t think the problem can be solved in two to three years,” CATARC chief engineer Huang Yonghe said in May. “We are relying on other countries, with 95% of the wafers imported.”
Chinese EV maker BYD, which has started to design and manufacture IGBT transistor chips, is emerging as a domestic alternative, CATARC’s Li said.
“For a long time, China has seen its inability to be totally independent on chip production as a major security weakness,” said Victor Shih, professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.
With time, China could build a strong domestic industry as it did when it identified battery production as a national priority, Shih added.
“It led to a lot of waste, a lot of failures, but then it also led to two or three giants that now dominate the global market.”
Original – Reuters
Silicon 100: Startups to Follow in 2022
The EE Times Silicon 100, now in its 22nd edition, is not just a list of electronics and semiconductor startups to watch. It explores the non-linear relationship between capital investment and technological innovation and draws a nuanced picture of the changing dynamics and trends in the global startup ecosystem.
Peter Clarke, a veteran technology and business journalist who has compiled and curated the EE Times Silicon 100 list since its inception in 2004, has ranked the most promising startups in a weighted selection of fresh-faced youngsters, familiar faces, and fast growers.
In order to permit a more granular analysis, this year’s edition has opted for a technological categorization into 21 areas, ranging from materials and packaging at a fundamental extreme to quantum computing and security at the highest level of abstraction.
- Materials & packaging
- Chip manufacturing equipment
- Energy harvesting
- Power, GaN, SiC
- EDA, IP, design services
- Analog, mixed-signal, PMIC
- Memory, storage
- MEMS, sensors, actuators, haptics
- Optoelectronics, image sensors
- Display devices, displays, drivers
- RF & IoT
- 5G & higher RF
- Radar, LiDAR, ADAS
- Audio, visual processing
- General-purpose processors, MCUs, networking, FPGAs
- Quantum computing
For the second year, the Silicon 100 features the China Fabless 100. EE Times China have navigated the uncharted sea of startups and ranked China’s fabless semiconductor companies to better assess the depth and breadth of the Chinese market.
Original – EE Times
Electric Cars as Buffer Storage for Solar Power: Infineon and Delta Enable Bidirectional Charging at Home
On hot summer days, the share of solar power in the energy mix reaches record levels. But what to do when the sun is not shining? With bidirectional charging, solar power from the photovoltaic system is stored in electric cars and home batteries and fed back into the home grid in the evening hours or when needed to operate household appliances. This protects the environment, saves money and creates further incentives for switching to emission-free electromobility.
Infineon Technologies AG and Delta Electronics, a Taiwan-based global leading provider of power and energy management solutions, have developed a three-in-one-system that integrates solar, energy storage and charging of electric vehicles. Thanks to bidirectional inverters, the electric car is not only charged, but can also be used as a buffer storage or as household emergency backup power. More and more cars are equipped for this. Looking ahead, bidirectional energy flows could also be used to realize new vehicle-to-home (V2H) and vehicle-to-grid (V2G) solutions.
“To make a sustainable contribution to decarbonization, we must think electromobility holistically: from green power generation to a stable, efficient grid infrastructure to storage and consumption,” says Peter Wawer, head of Infineon’s Industrial Power Control division. „With our solutions for bidirectional charging, the electric car can be charged inexpensively with solar power at home and also serves as a buffer storage.”
A single-family home can consume an average of 10-15 kWh of energy per day. A fully charged car battery with a capacity of 30 to 100 kWh could therefore theoretically bridge a few days as an emergency power solution. Homeowners thus secure inexpensive electricity as well as more independence in power supply.
The new system provided by Delta allows a maximum continuous current of 34 A and achieves peak efficiencies of more than 97.5 percent. To increase power density, energy-efficient power semiconductors made of silicon carbide (SiC) from Infineon are used. Compared to silicon-based semiconductors, the compound material SiC reduces energy losses when converting current by around half. The size of charging stations can also be reduced by about 30 percent. With SiC, photovoltaic systems become more powerful, charging times at fast-charging stations and wallboxes are shorter, and the range of electric cars five to ten percent higher.
Original – Infineon
GlobalFoundries Statement on U.S. House of Representatives’ Passage of Legislation to Increase U.S. Semiconductor Manufacturing
GlobalFoundries (GF) hailed the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of legislation to increase U.S. semiconductor manufacturing known as “CHIPS and Science Act”.
“With the votes taken today in the House of Representatives and yesterday in the U.S. Senate, Congress has expressed broad, bipartisan and national support for leveling the playing field for competitive semiconductor manufacturing in the U.S.,” said Dr. Thomas Caulfield, president and CEO of GF. “This week, Congress took action to protect U.S. economic, supply chain and national security by accelerating semiconductor manufacturing on American soil.”
The CHIPS legislation now moves to the White House and awaits President Biden’s signature. The Biden Administration has been a strong supporter of increasing semiconductor manufacturing and the many jobs it creates in the U.S., an effort that has been led by Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
“The investment being made will pay dividends through creation of high-paying jobs, community vitality, research and development, and innovation in the U.S.,” Caulfield added. “For GlobalFoundries, joint GF-customer-government partnership is a great example of how our nation’s greatest challenges can be solved by embracing new strategies and partnering together.”
More than ever, consumers, businesses and governments depend on semiconductor chips in mobile devices, vehicles, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G infrastructure, national defense and many other applications.
“We are grateful to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Paul Tonko, Congressman Peter Welch, CHIPS Act sponsors Congressman Michael McCaul and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, and the many steadfast leaders in the House, Senate, White House and Department of Commerce who helped us overcome obstacles and remained focused on increasing the U.S. share of global semiconductor manufacturing in America,” said Caulfield. “The leadership, persistence and spirit of collaboration and compromise on both sides of the aisle and across different branches of government are the reason we’ve reached this critical moment.”
Once CHIPS Act funding legislation is signed into law, investments GlobalFoundries receives from the $52 billion in the legislation will be combined with similar investments being made by GF and its customers to expand the company’s manufacturing, research and development at its
manufacturing sites in New York and Vermont. GF is already spending more than a billion dollars to expand manufacturing capacity at its campus and headquarters in Malta and is ready to accelerate its expansion plans there with the construction of new manufacturing facility, known as a “fab,” that would create roughly one-thousand high-tech jobs and thousands more to the New York State economy and semiconductor ecosystem both during construction and after the fab comes into operation.
Original – GlobalFoundries
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