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As the semiconductor industry shifts from silicon to gallium, China will dominate 5G base station chips

By Hotenda

According to the latest report, China produces more than 95% of the world's raw material gallium. Gallium is a soft, light blue metal used to make chipsets that generate high-frequency radio waves at 5G base stations.

"As the semiconductor industry shifts from silicon to gallium, China is preparing to dominate." State Key Laboratory of Crystal Materials at Shandong University, engaged in functional materials research Professor Hao Xiaopeng said in a recent article in the South China Morning Post.

Gallium nitride chips are energy efficient and generate very little heat and are used to make chipsets that can be applied to 5G base stations. They can operate at 800 ° C, which means that the 5G base station does not require as much power supply as the silicon chip and air conditioning cooling / cooling. Huawei, headquartered in Shenzhen, China, has applied for 2,000 patents related to GaN, ahead of other companies - Nokia has submitted 1,500 patents, and Qualcomm has submitted fewer than 1,000 related patent applications.

Alexandra Feytis, a consultant with London-based Roskill Information Services, said that as China maintains its original gallium production, gallium production in most other countries, such as Germany and Kazakhstan, has declined. She said that China's dominant position in this market has not attracted attention, but in the long run, this may change.

“Gallium will certainly attract more attention in the next few years. It is listed as a key mineral by several major countries,” she said.

In addition to being used in 5G base station chipsets, GaN can also be used in radars, lasers, and satellites.

Gallium nitride is known as the first generation of Ge, Si semiconductor materials, the third generation of semiconductor materials after the second generation of GaAs, InP compound semiconductor materials, has a wide range of applications in optoelectronics, high temperature and high power devices and high frequency microwave devices. prospect.

Limited by the cost issue, it has not been promoted to the civilian sector in the past. In recent years, the material cost and manufacturing cost of GaN have begun to decline. Mobile communication base station applications require higher peak power, wider bandwidth, and higher frequencies, all of which contribute to the acceptance of GaN devices by base stations.

The RF GaN technology is a perfect match for 5G, and the base station power amplifier uses GaN. Gallium nitride (GaN), gallium arsenide (GaAs), and indium phosphide are three- and five-valent semiconductor materials commonly used in radio frequency applications. Compared with high-frequency processes such as gallium arsenide and indium phosphide, GaN devices output more power; compared to power processes such as LDCMSO and silicon nitride (SiC), GaN has better frequency characteristics. It is important that the instantaneous bandwidth of the GaN device is higher, the use of carrier aggregation techniques and the preparation of higher frequency carriers are all used to achieve greater bandwidth. Authoritative experts pointed out that the market prospect of GaN devices is very broad, mobile fast charging, 5G communications, power supplies, new energy vehicles, etc. are important application markets.

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