Alternative To Silicon Chip

The new GaN transistor invented by Weixiao Huang could reduce the power consumption and improve the efficiency of power electronics systems in everything from motor drives and hybrid vehicles to house appliances and defense equipment.

“Silicon has been the workhorse in the semiconductor industry for last two decades,” Huang said. “But as power electronics get more sophisticated and require higher performing transistors, engineers have been seeking an alternative like gallium nitride-based transistors that can perform better than silicon and in extreme conditions.”

Each household likely contains dozens of silicon-based electronics. An important component of each of those electronics is usually a silicon-based transistor know as a silicon metal/oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (silicon MOSFET). To convert the electric energy to other forms as required, the transistor acts as a switch, allowing or disallowing the flow of current through the device.

Huang first developed a new process that demonstrates a GaN MOS (metal/oxide/GaN) interface. Engineers have known that GaN and other gallium-based materials have some extremely good electrical properties, much better than silicon. However, no useful GaN MOS transistor has been developed. Huang’s innovation, the GaN MOSFET, has shown that his innovation can integrate several important electronic functions onto one chip. “This will entire electronic systems,” Huang said. Huang has also designed and experimentally demonstrated several new high-voltage MOS-gated FETs which have shown superior performance compared to silicon MOSFET in terms of lower power consumption, smaller chip size, and higher power density.

The new transistors can reduce energy loss, making energy conversion more efficient. “If these new GaN transistors replaced many existing silicon MOSFETs in power electronics systems, there would be global reduction in fossil fuel consumption and pollution,” Huang said.

The new GaN transistors can also allow the electronics system to operate in extremely hot, harsh, and high-power environments and even those that produce radiation.; Source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute