Gallium Price Unchanged

Gallium Price ($US/KG)
5 July 2024 : Price $816.40 
1 January 2024: Price $755.80

Source: (https://strategicmetalsinvest.com/gallium-prices/)

Gallium unchanged on the week, holding at 6-year highs

An interesting week that saw a consolidation of the gallium price at 6-year highs and news of new applications for GaN including the potential for use in nuclear reactors to facilitate SMR’s (Small Modular Reactors) a key growth engine for nuclear power generation and the green transition.

Korean behemoths Samsung and SK Hynix to break into the compound semiconductor market including GaN devices, currently dominated by the Europeans and Americans. SK Hynix is a key supplier to Nvidia and has jumped more than 100% this year on the KOSPI. As recently as last week its subsidiary SK Key Foundry is looking to begin deliveries of GaN devices to Tesla in the 2H, 2024. A round of broker upgrades on SK Hynix followed arguing wide band gap devices have significantly higher margins.

Lastly, we highlight another round of consolidation in the GaN IP space. While no metrics were given, in October 2023, European giant Infineon acquired GaN Systems of Canada for U$830 million including a broad portfolio of GaN-based power conversion solutions and leading-edge application know-how.

National Lab Demonstrates Semiconductor Can Survive Near a Nuclear Reactor

New research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) demonstrated that gallium nitride semiconductors can successfully withstand the harsh environment near a nuclear reactor core.

The discovery may make it possible to place electronic components closer to sensors in an operating reactor leading to more precise and accurate measurements and more compact designs. These findings could one day lead to the use of wireless sensors within nuclear reactors, including advanced small modular and microreactor designs currently under development.

Sensors are used to gather information from a nuclear reactor and can identify potential equipment failures before they happen. This can help prevent unscheduled shutdowns that can cost companies millions of dollars each day in lost generation revenue. The sensors are connected to complex circuitry that are placed further away from the reactor core to protect the electronics from heat and radiation.

As a result, the data are processed through lengthy cables that can pick up additional noise and degrade the signal.
To help shorten the cabling and improve the accuracy and precision of the sensors, ORNL researchers explored the use of gallium nitride, which is commonly used in consumer electronics, as a substitute for silicon-based transistors.

Gallium nitride is a promising wide-bandgap semiconductor material that is more resistant to heat and radiation than silicon.

ORNL researchers placed gallium nitride transistors close to a research reactor core at The Ohio State University where they successfully withstood high heat and radiation for three consecutive days, logging 7 hours with the reactor at 90 percent power.

The transistors were able to handle a 100 times higher accumulated dose of radiation than standard silicon devices at a sustained temperature of 125 degrees Celsius—far exceeding the team’s original expectations. “We fully expected to kill the transistors on the third day, and they survived,” said lead researcher Kyle Reed, a member of the Sensors and Electronics group at ORNL.

“Our work makes measuring the conditions inside an operating nuclear reactor more robust and accurate.” 

https://www.energy.gov/ne/articles/national-lab-demonstrates-semiconductor-can-survive-near-nuclear-reactor-1

Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix will help secure ‘compound power semiconductors’ sovereignty

It is to focus on compound power semiconductors and enter markets dominated by Europe, the United States, and Japan. Through this, the strategy is to increase the competitiveness of foundry (consignment production of semiconductors).

According to the semiconductor industry on the 2nd, Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are pushing to enter the compound power semiconductor market. According to global research company Global Research Company, the size of the compound power semiconductor market was USD 73.91 billion (about KRW 102.7 trillion) last year. It is expected to grow to 113.3 billion dollars (about 157.4 trillion won) by 2028.

The domestic industry relies on imports of compound power semiconductors. This is because Europe (54%), the United States (28%), and Japan (13%) are leading the market. Korea’s share is only 1-2%. In response, the Korea Institute of Industrial Technology and Evaluation has decided to invest 138.5 billion won by 2028 to develop technology to advance the power semiconductor of the compound.

Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are also considering commercialization. In particular, they are interested in GaN semiconductors. “Compound power semiconductors are widely used in electric vehicles and data centers because they are resistant to high temperature and high pressure,” a semiconductor industry official said. “GaN semiconductors can withstand high voltage 10 times more than conventional silicon semiconductors.” Samsung Electronics is also growing GaN semiconductors into its future business. In June last year, Choi Si-young, president of Samsung Electronics’ foundry division, declared at the Samsung Foundry Forum, “We will start the 8-inch GaN compound power semiconductor foundry from 2025.” It is expected that the forum to be held on the 9th will re-emphasize compound power semiconductors.

Samsung Electronics reorganized its LED business team into a CSS business team at the end of last year to commercialize GaN semiconductors. It is believed that the LED business team has been reorganized because GaN compounds can be deposited through LED wafer deposition equipment. Samsung Electronics’ goal is to develop GaN semiconductors based on its LED development capabilities.

SK Hynix also started developing and mass-producing GaN semiconductors through its subsidiary SK Key Foundry. It has set a goal of developing GaN semiconductors within this year and starting mass production in 2025. “We have formed a team in 2022 to develop GaN processes,” an SK Key Foundry official said. “We recently secured 650-volt GaN high-electron mobility transistor (HEMT) device characteristics.” DB Hi-tech has also been developing GaN process since last year. DB Hi-tech introduced core equipment at its Eumseong plant in Chungbuk to prepare for SiC semiconductor production. Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix are planning to develop SiC semiconductors as well as GaN semiconductors.

https://www.mk.co.kr/en/business/11057018

China plans state ownership for all of its rare earth metal resources — regulation comes into effect on Oct 1

New regulation may be a reaction to U.S. sanction pressure.

China has enacted a new regulation, effective October 1, asserting state ownership over its rare-earth materials required in semiconductor production, reports Nikkei. This move aims to secure national and industrial interests, though outside of China the move is considered to be leverage in the ongoing trade war with the U.S.
The new regulation prohibits any individual or organization from unlawfully accessing or damaging rare-earth resources. We could interpret the rule as basically an explicit declaration of state ownership of important rare earth metals, such as gallium and germanium. Notably, the statement of state ownership was not part of the initial draft but was included in the final version to emphasize control over these strategic materials.

China’s action could be a response to U.S. export rules restricting Chinese access to advanced wafer fab equipment required to make chips at sub 14nm/16nm process technologies. While by tightening control over rare-earth elements, China says it aims to safeguard its industrial interests against international pressures, industry observers from outside of China believe that the country can use export controls as a lever in negotiations with the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
The regulation covers the entire supply chain of rare-earth elements, from mining and smelting to processing, distribution, and export. It stresses safety, innovation, and sustainable development as guiding principles for managing these resources.

In 2023, China produced about 70% of the world’s rare-earth elements, essential for various devices. When it comes to gallium, which is used for power ICs, China produces approximately 94% of the world’s supply, so its restrictions are very likely to impact various industries. While the production of high-performance components like CPUs, GPUs, and memory may not be heavily impacted, gallium nitride (GaN) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) are critical for power chips, radio frequency amplifiers, LEDs, and other applications.

Anton Shilov

Foundry chipmaker GlobalFoundries Inc. has acquired a portfolio of gallium nitride power semiconductor intellectual property form Tagore Technology Inc. (Chicago, Illinois).

Tagore Technology was founded in January 2011 to pioneer Gallium Nitride-on-Silicon (GaN-on-Si) and GaN-SiC semiconductor technology for Radio Frequency (RF) and power management applications. It has its engineering base in Kolkata. India. The amount Globalfoundries has paid for the acquisition was not disclosed.

The technology is suitable for power applications in automotive, internet of things (IoT) and the artificial intelligence (AI) datacenter, Globalfoundries said. The acquisition expands GF’s power IP portfolio and the deal includes a GaN engineering team from Tagore.
“The accelerating demand for more power efficient semiconductors is dramatically increasing, and Tagore has been at the forefront of developing disruptive solutions using GaN technology for a wide range of power devices,” said Amitava Das, co-founder and chief operating officer of Tagore Technology. “The team and I are excited to join GlobalFoundries to increase our focus on market-leading IP that will help address power design challenges and support the continued evolution of automotive, industrial and AI datacenter power delivery systems.”

In February 2024, GF was awarded US$1.5 billion in direct funding under the US CHIPS and Science Act, part of that investment is targeted towards enabling the high-volume manufacturing of critical technologies including GaN to securely produce more essential chips.

https://www.eenewseurope.com/en/globalfoundries-buys-gan-ip-portfolio-from-tagore/