ST, TSMC form gallium nitride partnership

February 20, 2020 //By Peter Clarke
ST, TSMC form gallium nitride partnership
European chip giant STMicroelectronics NV has formed a partnership with foundry TSMC on the development of gallium nitride manufacturing process technology.

ST said that through under the terms of the deal it will be able to design both discrete and integrated GaN devices and have them made using TSMC's GaN process technology.

It is apparent that TSMC will act as foundry for ST's production of GaN. It is unclear whether ST will have any intellectual property in the processes or will also license the technology to allow some internal manufacture of GaN products. This would be a departure from TSMC's fundamental business model. ST described the agreement as complementary to its own R&D both internal and with CEA-Leti.

GaN is a wide bandgap semiconductor that has advantages over silicon in both power and RF applications. These include higher efficiency at higher power and higher switching speeds while operating at higher temperatures. ST said GaN discretes and IC will enable ST to provide solutions for medium and high-power applications in applications such as on-board automotive conversion and chargers for hybrid and electric vehicles.

ST also has a major initiative in silicon-carbide power IC production.

"TSMC is a trusted foundry partner that can uniquely meet the challenging reliability and roadmap evolution requirements of ST's target customers," said Marco Monti, President of STMicroelectronics’ Automotive and Discrete Group. "This cooperation complements our existing activities on power GaN undertaken at our site in Tours, France and with CEA-Leti. GaN represents the next major innovation in Power and Smart Power electronics, as well in process technology," he added.

Kevin Zhang, vice president of business development at TSMC, said: "TSMC’s leading GaN manufacturing expertise, combined with STMicroelectronics’ product design and automotive-grade qualification capabilities, will deliver great energy efficiency improvement for industrial and automotive power conversion applications that are more eco-friendly and help accelerate the electrification of vehicles."

ST said it expects to provide samples of power GaN discrete devices to key customers later this year, followed by GaN IC products within a few months.

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