Energy-saving chips of the future

neues Material GaN Herstellung Fertigung
© Infineon Austria
Wafers made of gallium nitride are to be produced by 2018 as part of the PowerBase project.

When chargers and power supply units supply devices such as computers, laptops or smartphones with current and voltage they generate unnecessary heat. Reducing these losses saves electrical energy and cuts the cost of cooling. To this end, the semiconductor industry is on the offensive and together with Fraunhofer is starting the EU PowerBase project with a financial volume of 87 million euros.

It is banking on gallium nitride based semiconductors, which convert electricity for the needs of the respective device significantly more efficiently than conventional chips made of silicon: Their higher breakdown field strengths and faster switching speeds could allow them to become the energy saving chips of the future.

The Fraunhofer IMWS in Halle is contributing above all with its expertise in the diagnostics required to develop this semiconductor technology to industrial marketability. »With our experience and know-how in material and reliability research we are able to contribute important knowledge, not only for processing the gallium nitride semiconductor wafers, but also for the subsequent layout of components in the packaging«, said Matthias Petzold, Head of the Fraunhofer Center for Applied Microstructure Diagnostics CAM, which belongs to the Fraunhofer IMWS.

There are still many tasks to solve, however, in order to be able to produce these innovative semiconductor components in the future with the necessary quality and durability.