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Gallium Oxide: The Next-Gen Power Semiconductor Material Puts Japan and China Ahead in Patent Race

Gallium oxide (GA2O3) is emerging as a noteworthy next-generation power semiconductor material, succeeding SiC and GaN, with firms and organisations globally vying to develop gallium oxide technology. However, Japan and China currently lead the pack in the patent race.

A recent ‘Gallium Oxide Power Semiconductor Technology Roadmap Seminar’ at the Korea Semiconductor Industry Association headquarters in Pangyo explored gallium oxide’s potential. Like SiC and GaN, gallium oxide is a wide bandgap (WBG) material, regarded as a cutting-edge power semiconductor material. A wider bandgap enables superior electron mobility, facilitating higher voltages, temperatures, and frequencies.

Gallium oxide’s bandgap surpasses that of SiC and GaN, and it boasts a lower production cost. The material’s market is poised for substantial growth in the mid to long term. Bae Si-young, Chairman of the Korea Institute of Ceramic Engineering and Technology, estimated that the gallium oxide market could expand six-fold within five years, reaching KRW 1.7tn ($1.3 billion).

Despite its potential, gallium oxide faces hurdles such as low electrical conductivity and a less advanced research and development stage compared to other WBG materials. Consequently, numerous companies and organisations worldwide are striving to secure a foothold in the gallium oxide market.

The US, Japan, and China dominate the market, with South Korea lagging behind Japan’s NCT in gallium oxide single crystal substrate material and wafer materials. Patent holdings reflect this trend, as China and Japan collectively hold over 50% of total patents.

Korea is also making headway in gallium oxide technology development. In 2021, the ‘Gallium Oxide Alliance (K-GOAL)’ was established, collaborating with the Korea Semiconductor Research Association on roadmap and commercialisation strategies to bolster gallium oxide technology. Firms such as Quanta Materials, NexusB, and Power Cube Semi are also developing related products.

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