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Next-Gen Power Chips Poised to Explode

The following commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet's guest contributor program, which is separate from the company's news coverage.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Power semiconductors are $14 billion subset of the overall $300 billion semiconductor market. Manufacturers are a "who's who" of the industry: Infineon, Toshiba, Fairchild, Mitsubishi Electric, Renasas Electronics, STMicroelectronics, Vishay, International Rectifiers, Fuji Electric Systems, ON Semiconductor, MicroSemi, National Semiconductor and Texas Instruments.

Power semiconductors are used in notebooks, netbooks, desktop PC's, servers, flat panel displays, TVs, graphics cards, game boxes, chargers, battery packs, AC adapters, power supplies, e-bikes, DVD/Blu-Ray players, set-top boxes and networking equipment. In addition, power semiconductors are essential devices for solar and wind power generation systems as inverters for connecting these systems with the electric power grid, and in a wide range of home electronic appliances, such as air conditioners. Hybrid and electric vehicles all use power semiconductors for inverters, and as this market grows, so too will be the power semiconductor market. Last year 30% of these power devices were used in industrial applications, vs. 22% for communication, 18% for consumer applications, and a remaining 30% divided between computers and autos.

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Traditional silicon-based power semiconductors are reaching their theoretical limitations. Fortunately because of their superior material properties, wide-bandgap power semiconductor devices (silicon carbide and gallium nitride) can offer performances orders-of-magnitude better than silicon devices.

According to a new report, Next-Generation Power Semiconductors: Markets Materials, Technologies recently published by The Information Network, these SiC and GaN-based semiconductors will exhibit an annual growth rate of 72% to 2015, compared to only 4% for standard silicon-based devices.

Equally important, these new power semiconductors will require novel methods of fabrication not seen with standard devices. Benefiting from the growth of these wide-bandgap devices will be processing equipment. Significant improvements on the technique of growing GaN material on Si substrates have enabled high quality, crack-free GaN epitaxy layers grown on Si. For GaN epitaxy on Si or SiC, Veeco (VECO) and Aixtron (AIXG) will benefit and grow strongly, utilizing their expertise in systems used for LED epitaxy.

Silicon devices traditionally use wirebonding and standard packages. GaN on silicon can be bonded using flip chip technology. Companies benefiting would be equipment suppliers to the flip chip industry, such as NeXX Systems.

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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