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Is beta-gallium oxide the future of semiconductors?

Gallium oxide chip with lateral transistor and measurement structures, manufactured at FBH by projection lithography.

Researchers have demonstrated beta-gallium oxide offers the potential to increase power converter efficiency.

About 80 per cent of modern electronic systems require the conversion of primary electricity into another form of electricity, and there is a growing need for that conversion to be carried out as efficiently as possible.

New semiconductor materials with a high band gap such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) offer a higher electrical breakdown field strength than silicon, allowing the fabrication of components in much smaller and compact dimensions. Researchers have now discovered an even better option.

The semiconductor β-Ga2O3 features a breakdown field strength of twice the value of SiC and GaN and so offers the potential to further increase power converter efficiency. High voltages can be switched with significantly smaller semiconductor drift regions – the basis for more compact systems.

In addition, transistors based on β-Ga2O3 are characterised by a low on-resistance at a given breakdown voltage and faster switching transients, which leads to lower power losses.

The researchers explain that, due to these properties, β-Ga2O3 has the best prerequisites to become the high-performance material for next generation power applications.

This comes from a joint project "ForMikro-GoNext" involving the Leibniz-Institut für Kristallzüchtung (IKZ), the Ferdinand Braun Institut, Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik (FBH), the University of Bremen and industrial partners ABB Power Grids Switzerland Ltd. and AIXTRON.

The project partners are investigating this semiconductor material in order to use its properties to build more effective transistors. The joint project is funded with approximately €2 million over 4 years by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Charlotte Hathway

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