Imec’s 200mm GaN-on-Si e-mode power devices withstand heavy ion and neutron irradiation

Imec, the research and innovation hub in nano-electronics and digital technologies, today announced that their 200mm gallium nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si) e-mode power devices with a pGaN gate architecture showed no degradation after heavy ion and neutron irradiation. The irradiation tests were performed in collaboration with Thales Alenia Space, a leader in innovative space systems. The results demonstrate that imec’s 200mm GaN-on-Si platform delivers state-of-the-art GaN-based power devices for earth as well as for space applications.

GaN-on-silicon transistors operate at higher voltages, frequencies and temperatures than their silicon counterparts. This makes them the ideal candidates for power conversion devices as they show less power losses in electricity conversion. First-generation GaN-based power devices are used today and will play a key role in the power conversion of future electronic devices such as battery chargers, smartphones, computers, servers, automotive, lighting systems and photovoltaics.

Imec has been  developing the next-generation of GaN-based power devices with improved performance and reliability. Imec’s latest 200mm GaN-on-Si platform shows good  wafer-to-wafer reproducibility and low dynamic Rdson. The platform is currently available for dedicated development or technology transfer to imec’s current and future partners.

imec Ron

Imec’s latest generation of  200mm GaN-on-Si e-mode pGaN devices were irradiated with heavy ions (Xenon) and neutrons. Pre and post irradiation tests revealed that there was no permanent degradation of transistor characteristics: no shifts in threshold voltage nor gate rupture. The excellent radiation hardness of imec’s devices is important, as it enables applications in space, where fluxes of heavy ions and neutrons can damage electronic circuits in satellites and space stations.

Thales Alenia Space Belgium has surveyed, since many years, the evolution in the field of wide band gap devices. These family of components is promising for a significant increase in performances. But, robustness to space radiation is mandatory for electronic devices in our equipment’s. The result obtained with Imec’s GaN-on-Si devices is an important step in the way to space based power conversion applications.

“These results are important to start using this promising technology for space applications. Also, it demonstrates that our 200mm GaN-on-Si platform has reached a high level of technology readiness and can be adopted by industry,” stated Rudi Cartuyvels, Executive Vice President at imec. “At imec, we use 200mm silicon substrates for GaN epitaxy and this technology can be used on 200mm CMOS-compatible infrastructure. Thanks to innovations in transistor architecture and substrate technology, we’ve succeeded in making GaN devices on larger wafer diameters than used today, which brings lower cost perspectives for the second generation of GaN-on-Si power devices. Imec is also looking beyond today’s technology, exploring novel substrates, higher level of integrations and novel devices.”

These results were achieved in the framework of the European Space Agency (ESA) project “ESA AO/1-7688/13/NL/RA”, GaN devices for space based DC-DC power conversion applications.

Andrew Barnes ESA Technical Officer overseeing the project stated: “GaN is a critical technology for future space missions with a wide range of potential applications, including smaller size, higher efficiency DC-DC power conversion subsystems. These results, obtained from the first phase of an ESA GSTP project, are important and show that the p-GaN devices developed by imec offer excellent radiation robustness for operation in space. In the second phase of the project it is planned to industrialize this technology in readiness for a future space qualification program”. The European Space Agency (ESA) is Europe’s gateway to space. Its mission is to shape the development of Europe’s space capability and ensure that investment in space continues to deliver benefits to the citizens of Europe and the world.


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