Wide Bandgap Devices and "The Law of the Farm"

Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America



Kevin Parmenter, Director, Applications Engineering. TSC, America

­It was only a matter of time for wide bandgap products to find broad acceptance in real-world applications. According to the analysis firm Yole, for instance, silicon carbide is driving the revolution in transportation and creating a multi-billion-dollar market. SiC devices are already being deployed in EVs and other major applications around the world, which benefit from the higher voltages and superior benefits they offer compared to silicon. Likewise, GaN devices are finding their way into everything from industrial applications to consumer electronics.

I do find it interesting that organizations offering all types of devices – GaN, SiC and silicon – promote them less than those who have GaN or SiC only. Perhaps it’s the old story of startups expecting their products to immediately be perfect for every application on earth. When WBG first came on the scene, I suggested to several companies that success would take patience, persistence and a “killer app,” which turned out to be the electrification of transportation.  Usually, I was rebuffed – this view did not agree with the prevalent fast-money-now thinking of the time.

Having said that, I have always maintained that for WBG products to be successful they would need to be supported by an entire ecology and, over time, that’s exactly what happened. After years of development, support devices, packaging, evaluation boards and reference designs are now easy to obtain, and engineers can simulate their designs using device models. Also available are support ICs like gate drivers and programmable devices that optimize the performance of WBG devices. Most important is the advancements in packaging that can take advantage of this improved performance.

My prediction for the success of WBG was based on the theory that new technologies always follow Steven Covey’s “The Law of the Farm.”  Taking a long-term orientation, this theory uses farming as a metaphor: preparing the soil to reap the harvest, and so forth. In the early nineties, an employer sent me and my team to take the Covey course. In the training, we learned that when growing something from scratch you can’t take shortcuts. It takes as long as it takes. We thought it was brilliant.

The power electronics industry is very risk adverse, so of course, nobody made fast money with WBG. Its acceptance was only assured after years of effort by very gifted people, and by the emergence of a market with a need for the technology. WBG devices were always bound to come to fruition in their own time – with or without the accompanying hype. It’s too bad that you rarely hear about The Law of the Farm anymore. It still holds true in our industry, just as it does with most things.