Is there a life for bulk GaN substrates beyond blue laser diodes?

May 6, 2009
A new market analysis has been released that is dedicated to bulk gallium nitride (GaN). In the report, Yole Developpement (Lyon, France) has detailed the major market metrics of the current and projected bulk and free-standing GaN substrate business, with a focus on applications, key players, volumes, and related market size of each segment.

A new market analysis has been released that is dedicated to bulk gallium nitride (GaN). In the report, Yole Developpement (Lyon, France) has detailed the major market metrics of the current and projected bulk and free-standing GaN substrate business, with a focus on applications, key players, volumes, and related market size of each segment.

Yole highlighted the possible total accessible market for GaN substrates, including the strengths and weaknesses of this technology over the current established epiwafer or epitaxial liftoff (ELO) technologies. The recent progress in crystalline quality was described, as well as the new challenges offered by nonpolar and semipolar GaN material.

From blue lasers to lighting and power electronics

Today, the bulk and free-standing GaN substrate market is mostly driven by blue laser-diode production and its related application in high-density data storage. This market is propelled by strong demand for Blu-ray players and game stations.

Starting in 2011 or 2012, a portion of the bulk GaN production will be used to make ultra-high-brightness LEDs. "That will only be possible with a sharp drop in bulk-GaN prices," said Philippe Roussel, project manager at Yole Developpement. He noted that the critical price threshold for a 2 in. LED-grade substrate needed to be below $1,500 to act as leverage for a takeoff of the LED market.

2012 and 2013 will also see the introduction of new high-power devices based on bulk GaN. But again, that is strongly linked to the pricing of bulk GaN, which will have to compete with 4 in. and future 6 in. silicon carbide offerings and GaN-on-silicon technology.

Lack of bulk material pushes for ELO technique

The market is now essentially centered on free-standing GaN material. However, the shortage of this product has to be compensated for by the use of home-made ELO-GaN on sapphire substrates. Yole Développement assumes that about 28% of laser diodes were made on ELO-GaN in 2008. This percentage will decrease a little but will remain significant in 2012.

Asia dominates the substrate business, but the European Union and the U.S. are credible challengers. The main producer of free-standing GaN remains Sumitomo, mostly supplying Nichia and Sony for laser production. Other challengers such as Hitachi-cable (now sampling 3 in. wafers) or Mitsubishi Chemical are becoming more and more of a presence.

In Europe, LumiLOG (now part of Saint-Gobain group) and the UK company NanoGaN are fine-tuning product lineups for the LED illumination business; Ammono and TopGaN are improving their already strong expertise in low-dislocation-density crystals. The U.S. region is mainly focusing on non- or semi-polar material, with Kyma, Inlustra Technologies or Oxford Instruments (TDI).

By 2015, bulk GaN for LED will dominate the substrate market in volume

The production volume for 2 in. substrates could reach about 100,000 units by 2010, leading to a relative $240 million market for both free-standing and ELO GaN. Beyond 2013, the growing demand for bulk GaN in LED lighting applications will rapidly grow to dominate the market in volume.

For more information on the report, contact [email protected]

About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

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