At the end of November last year, the new Tesla Model 3 went on sale, attracting attention for its product design and functional changes.
The mass production of SiC in the Tesla Model 3 has attracted the attention of global automakers. Smart electric vehicles equipped with SiC chips can improve range, which is important for breaking the bottleneck of existing battery energy consumption and control systems, and even for the whole new energy vehicle industry.
At present, the industry generally believes that the wide-band semiconductor represented by SiC will become the next generation of semiconductor materials, so what is the current development status of wide-band semiconductors? What are the differences between domestic and international development of wide-band semiconductors? What challenges are facing future development?
01、The first batch of Tesla Model 3 equipped with SiC
For global automakers, Tesla’s every action will attract a high degree of attention, Tesla Model 3 is equipped with SiC chips, becoming one of the world’s first automakers to use SiC chips in mass production. Based on the success of the Model 3 in the market and the advantages of SiC in terms of range and other aspects, SiC quickly became the focus of attention for chip makers and automakers worldwide upon its debut.
German chipmaker Infineon launched SiC modules for electric vehicle inverters, followed by Hyundai’s announcement that it would use SiC chips in its electric vehicles and that it would increase the range of electric vehicles using SiC chips by 5 percent, giving SiC another positive boost.
In fact, SiC chips do have advantages that are difficult to match with conventional semiconductors, and it is easy to see from the history of SiC development that SiC is also a relatively more mature material for research.
Previously, silicon (Si) and germanium (Ge), the mainstream of the semiconductor industry, was widely used in industries such as integrated circuits, aerospace, new energy and photovoltaics. With the increasing development of high-end manufacturing and high-power light-emitting electronic devices, the requirements for frequency, efficiency and noise are getting higher and higher, and the second-generation semiconductors gallium arsenide (GaAs) and indium phosphide (InP) came into being.
However, at present, human beings continue to make breakthroughs in frontier fields such as 5G communication, smart grid, astronautics satellite and new energy vehicles, and chip materials with smaller sizes, better performance and higher efficiency have become the immediate need for industrial progress, and market demand is forcing chip materials to innovate continuously.
In this situation, SiC and GaN, as the third generation of compound semiconductor materials, have come into view. As mentioned by Hyundai, SiC material is more resistant to high temperatures and corrosion, and this advantage helps to improve power and reduce heat dissipation, which is indeed important to improve the range of new energy vehicles.
02、International giants have not completed the monopoly, and domestic conditions to catch up
At present, the third generation of semiconductor materials SiC and GaN research is relatively mature, and the first two generations of semiconductor materials, SiC in the forbidden bandwidth and other aspects have obvious advantages, but also more resistant to high temperature, more resistant to radiation, in high-power, high temperature, high radiation application scenarios are particularly suitable. GaN materials are more pressure, heat-resistant, corrosion-resistant, and more suitable in light-emitting devices. Based on the obvious advantages in performance, domestic and foreign enterprises are actively developing wide-band semiconductor materials.
Looking around the world, at present, broadband semiconductor technology and industry is still dominated by foreign enterprises, but the international giants have not formed industry standards, in the scale and have not formed a complete monopoly. At the same time, China’s domestic market is huge, in the market and applications have obvious advantages, the industry chain is also increasingly perfect.
In the international market, broadband semiconductor materials have entered the stage of rapid development of industrialization, in new energy vehicles, 5G communications, photovoltaic, consumer electronics and other fields of application, the representative enterprises are Wolfspeed, onsemi, ROHM, etc., such as Wolfspeed, is the world’s largest SiC substrate manufacturer, its main business is dedicated to the study of SiC materials, focusing on in third-generation compound semiconductors.
Compared with the international market, domestic enterprises in the overall technology research and development and market applications are lagging behind, but in recent years the level of technology has been improving, some of the technology has reached an international advanced level, for example, in the wide band semiconductor microwave radio frequency chip technology has obvious advantages.
In addition, the industrial application of semiconductor lighting technology is relatively more mature, the total output value of China’s broadband semiconductor industry in early 2022 is close to 800 billion yuan, most of the output value from semiconductor lighting.
03, broad industrial prospects and cost reduction has become the key
The rapid rise of wide-band semiconductors has become the focus of global competition in the semiconductor and related industries, China’s domestic market size is huge, and the market application-driven development model, in the long run, China’s wide-band semiconductor industrialization has many advantages.
Moreover, compared with the integrated circuit industry, the wide band semiconductor industry on the process technology, design process and precision requirements are relatively low, so the threshold for entry is not high, which also provides the possibility of growth for domestic enterprises.
Capital also saw the huge prospects of the wide-band semiconductor industry, but also in accelerating the development of the wide-band semiconductor industry, 2021, even in the context of the epidemic, there are still more than 60 companies completed financing, which shows that the wide-band semiconductor is also highly favored by capital.
Of course, seeing the prospect of industry development, should not ignore the challenges faced. At present, the use of broadband semiconductors is mainly concentrated in the field of radio frequency devices, high-power power electronic devices, and optoelectronic devices, the application field is still to be expanded. In addition, although China has achieved the development and production of related products, the product iteration speed is slow, in the application side of the evaluation system is also relatively lacking.