15 November 2023
Gallium nitride and silicon carbide to be essential for enabling scale and potential of AI
Decades old norms are being challenged in the power semiconductor industry as Omdia forecasts an explosion in novel semiconductors due to the electric vehicle (EV) revolution. “Will the artificial intelligence (AI) boom have a similar impact?,” the firm questions.
“An industry which has long relied on silicon technologies is being both challenged and enabled by devices fabricated from new materials,” notes Callum Middleton, senior analyst for semiconductor components. “The development of both gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) power devices began in the previous century, but their technology maturity has matched with the sustainability movement, and devices manufactured from the new materials offer significant efficiency gains in our energy-hungry world,” he adds.
The initial adoption of SiC devices into Tesla electric vehicles in 2018 catapulted the technology from laboratories and test designs into the mainstream. Since then, the EV market has taken off and more manufacturers are looking to include these technologies in their vehicles due to the benefits in performance, charging speed, and range.
This early adoption has allowed SiC to prove its performance and reliability in the real world, and phone and laptop chargers have done the same for GaN. As the AI boom gathers pace it is going to put added stress onto our energy supply and distribution systems, says Omdia. To ensure that the benefits of AI are fully enjoyed and that this is done so sustainably we will have to ensure that efficiency is maximized, but this does not have to be done at the cost of profitability, the firm adds. Adopting a SiC or GaN solution for power supplies in data centers can significantly reduce energy consumption while simultaneously freeing up space for extra computing power.
“These novel devices, and the decades of research, development, testing and engineering that has gone before them, may not grab the headlines but they will be essential for enabling the scale and potential of artificial intelligence,” believes Middleton.
Middleton is presenting the market research firm’s latest semiconductor research at the 2023 Omdia Korea Technology Conference in Seoul, South Korea (22–24 November).