Fujitsu General Electronics Limited (hereinafter “FGEL”), the Fujitsu General Group’s electronic device business subsidiary, has developed an industry-first “small GaN module.” Along with a drive circuit, the module incorporates a high-voltage GaN-FET*2 chip by U.S. manufacturer Transphorm, thanks to FGEL’s advanced modularization technology. Sample shipments are set to begin this fall, leading to the gradual deployment of the modules in power supply-related equipment and other industrial products. Looking ahead, after strengthening development and building a mass production system with an eye on automotive applications, FGEL aims to grow sales and make GaN module products a new pillar of its electronic device business.
What is a GaN device?
Like SiC (silicon carbide), GaN (gallium nitride) is a next-generation semiconductor material that is coming into the spotlight and finding a growing range of practical uses as a substitute for Si (silicon)—the longstanding mainstream of semiconductor materials. GaN is notable for superior switching performance. Its two most outstanding features, higher switching frequency and higher efficiency, combine to yield substantially reduced power losses. In addition to making it easy to reduce the size and increase the efficiency of power supply and motor drive circuits, as well as power converter and inverter systems, GaN is also attractive because it enables lower device production costs than SiC.
Aims of Development
Anticipating growth in the power semiconductor market due to the shift to next-generation devices (GaN, SiC) that is likely to occur around 2025, since 2018 FGEL has been working together with Transphorm—a global leader in GaN device development—on the development of GaN-based modules with the potential to significantly reduce the size and increase the efficiency of power electronics products.
Integrating FGEL’s GaN modules into drive circuits and other kinds of peripheral circuits eases the burden of design on customers, allowing them to easily achieve high efficiency. This in turn helps to create products that take advantage of the benefits of GaN for a wide range of applications, including power supplies, industrial equipment, and automotive equipment.
Main features of developed products
(1) Equipped with both Transphorm GaN-FET chip and drive circuit
The small modules are equipped with a GaN-FET chip (rated at max. 650V/40A) by Transphorm, a global leader in GaN devices that boasts an extensive line of chips with a strong track record of market adoption.
As sample products, FGEL plans to offer two types of modules with a built-in drive circuit,*4 featuring 4-element and 6-element GaN chips. Through continual development, FGEL intends to make its modules even smaller, thinner, and inexpensive, successively utilizing Transphorm’s next-generation chips of even higher capacity and efficiency.
(2) FGEL’s sophisticated design and mounting technology for smaller modules
Although GaN devices reduce power loss, their high-speed drives require careful attention due to the risk of noise and malfunction. Furthermore, for the design of peripheral circuits, a high level of expertise is indispensable. The modularization of GaN devices is considered difficult using the same method employed for Si devices, the current mainstream.
To produce its small modules, FGEL has overcome these challenges by fully leveraging its miniaturization construction technology, as well as the circuit design and mounting expertise it has cultivated through the development of inverter power modules for industrial equipment.
(3) High-speed drives and substantially reduced power loss (conduction loss and switching loss)
GaN offers excellent switching performance, a key factor in power devices that results in efficient operation and dramatically reduces power loss. Compared to Si, the current mainstream semiconductor material, GaN enables the use of higher frequency drives, which means that the drive circuits around the module can be smaller, thereby saving space.
The product, composed of a drive circuit and multiple GaN chips, achieves a reduction in power loss by reducing resistance for inverter applications and increasing frequency for DC-DC converter applications.
Toward a more sustainable society
The Fujitsu General Group is committed to “sustainability management,” a policy to help shape a more sustainable society that lies at the core of its business. One of the company’s high-priority goals is “Harmonious coexistence with our planet.” In its effort to promote this, it has established its own internal certification scheme for Sustainable Products. The scheme certifies products and services with the potential to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and resolving social issues. On top of this, products and services recognized to make both a significant contribution to sustainable development and to growth of the company’s business are certified as “Sustainable Product Gold.”
The efficient operation of GaN devices reduces electric power losses, thereby cutting power consumption per device by approximately 50% compared to current mainstream Si devices. FGEL has rated its GaN modules as “Sustainable Product Gold,” because they are expected to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In recent years, there has been growing demand for energy-saving in power electronics, driven by concerns about environmental protection and resource conservation. In light of this, FGEL is contributing to global warming mitigation by promoting the replacement of power electronics products.
Comment by Primit Parikh, Ph.D. COO & Co-Founder of Transphorm Inc.
We have successfully partnered with FGEL, a leader in power module technology and manufacturing, for the commercialization of GaN power modules / intelligent power modules based on Transphorm’s world-leading and proven high reliability – high performance GaN power device platform. Through our long-term collaboration with FGEL, customers will have access to a portfolio of GaN power modules for power converter/inverter applications from a few kilo-watts to well over 10 kilo-watts.
Comment by Etsuro Saito, President, Representative Director of Fujitsu General
At Fujitsu General group, we are committed to “sustainability management,” which means that helping to shape a more sustainable society is at the core of our business. We are very pleased to be partnering with Transphorm in our GaN module business initiatives, both to grow our business better and to make a bigger contribution to environmental sustainability.
Right now, the power semiconductor market is steadily expanding, driven by the move to carbon neutrality. The demand for GaN modules, which can cut device power consumption by around 50%, is likely to grow worldwide. We are therefore confident that GaN module products will become a pillar of FGEL’s business.
References: Click here for more information about sample products.
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*1 In a module with integrated drive circuit, high-voltage chip, and full-bridge configuration (as of June 15, 2021, based on research by FGEL)
*2 GaN-FET = GaN field-effect transistor
*3 4-element: D×W×H=34×63×12 mm/6-element: D×W×H=35×46×8 mm
*4 Modules can be ordered without a drive circuit