GaN Systems announced it has surpassed 10,000 hours of qualification testing for its GaN E-HEMT devices. This is 10X the 1,000-hour requirement to meet JEDEC qualification. As the power electronics industry increases adoption of GaN power transistors, the need for high confidence in the technology is imperative.
The announcement by GaN Systems reinforces the early-adopter confidence in GaN transistors. Many examples of customer adoption in multiple applications with GaN Systems transistors were on display at APEC in San Antonio.
Why is 10,000 hours important? We live in a world where our electronics are expected to last a long time. For computers and cell phones this may be a couple of years for some, but 5-10 years for others. For homes, offices and factories, 20+ years are routinely expected. And while nearly all automobiles are on the road for only a few years, expectations are that some will drive the “old jalopy” for 20 years or more.
End-users and power equipment makers want long-lifetime equipment. And power system manufacturers want to make sure that the semiconductors in their products last far longer than the expected life of the system.
With long lifetime in mind, semiconductor manufacturers perform accelerated testing at elevated temperature, voltage, and current to prove these long durations. The longer the duration of the accelerated reliability tests, the longer the lifetime of the semiconductors in the real world.
What does 10,000 hours mean in terms of lifetime? The industry standard of 1,000 hours of JEDEC testing equates to 10+ years of lifetime at normal operating conditions.
Extend that testing by 10X to 10,000 hours (1.5 years) and the lifetime jumps to >1,000 years. This is what the power system makers want: GaN semiconductors that outlast the rest of the system.
Due to the physics of semiconductors, the GaN results are not surprising. Semiconductor design engineers are aware that the critical factor in device lifetime is a complex property known as Activation Energy. Activation Energy is the minimum amount of energy required to initiate a particular process, in this case, the energy to cause failure in the semiconductor device. The higher the value, the more energy it takes to damage the device.
For GaN, the activation energy is ~2.0eV, while for Silicon the activation energy is ~0.7eV. It takes far more energy to damage a GaN power transistor than a silicon power transistor. Consequently, at the same operating conditions, a system using GaN transistors accumulates less damage and lasts a longer time. GaN Systems now has the data to back the long-life conclusion.
“We are proud of our device lifetimes,” said Jim Witham, GaN Systems CEO. “One and a half years of testing at accelerated conditions takes a lot of ovens, a large number of test equipment and a lengthy amount of time. For GaN Systems, this is a notable achievement. Our customers from consumer electronics to automotive electric vehicles are pleased to see GaN transistor long lifetime clearly demonstrated.”