Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America
The power semiconductor devices market is estimated at USD 41.81 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach USD 49.23 billion by 2028 (an estimated 3.66% CAGR), according to a recent report from Mordor Intelligence. This market has come a long way since the early days when germanium power devices were used for car radios; today it consists mainly of semiconductor devices that can handle greater than or equal to one ampere.
Power semiconductors include discrete devices, modules and integrated circuits. Discrete devices are rectifiers, TVS devices, MOSFETs, IGBTs, thyristors and other discrete components, which use silicon, silicon carbide, gallium nitride, gallium arsenide, silicon germanium, or some combination of these materials. Power modules utilize discrete parts alone or in conjunction with ICs to form a complete function. Power integrated circuits -- multichannel PMICs, DC/DC switching regulators, linear regulators, BMICs, LED drivers, flyback converters, etc. -- typically use silicon, SiC and GaN, although other compound semiconductor devices have seen a resurgence.
The end markets for power semiconductor devices are driven primarily by emerging automotive applications. Governments worldwide are pushing for cleaner transportation options, making the demand for power semiconductors skyrocket in this area. Applications that never before used power electronics, are now seeing substantial electronics content. These include EVs, HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles) and autonomous driving applications ranging from passenger cars to truck and bus systems.
The global need for renewable energy sources like solar, wind power and battery storage are also accelerating the growth of the power semiconductor market. The automation of industrial processes (Industry 4.0) and data centers, the backbone of the digital world, are also creating a substantial demand for power semiconductors. AI is poised to drive the computing market even higher – consider that for every watt dissipated these applications require air conditioning systems to remove the heat. And, as always, the relentless pace of innovation in consumer electronics calls for ever-smaller, more power-efficient devices. Everything must be made more efficient and the electronics industry has no finish line, continuous improvement is a must. Clearly, the need for power semiconductors offers both opportunities and challenges for power semiconductor suppliers. The customers in these markets care about energy efficiency, power density, reducing weight, reducing the number of components used to implement needed functions and increasing voltages in the applications. Creating new designs is top of mind for design engineers – spurring endless debates about whether to use integrated or “dis-integrated” approaches when implementing designs.
Meanwhile, global instability has led to continuing supply chain shortages of power semiconductor devices, causing designers to consider multiple sources for devices or multiple layouts of proprietary devices in case suppliers cannot deliver. Some customers, not fully trusting semiconductor companies, are designing their own devices and buying fab capacity in external foundries, a practice never seen before in the history of cyclical semiconductor market swings. Customers are also designing out of discretes when they can since most of the IC companies could not deliver proprietary ICs.
Today’s designers have more choices than ever, including bypassing traditional semiconductor suppliers. Power electronics professionals need to keep pace in this fast growing, ever evolving market.