Emerging semiconductor substrate materials such as gallium nitride (GaN) have excited design engineers across a variety of different markets for their tremendous potential in both RF/microwave power and in optical and lighting applications. This wide-bandgap semiconductor material can significantly exceed the performance of traditional silicon materials, although the cost of the material is still much higher.

But that cost may be dropping, according to a report from Lux Research on the cost of bulk GaN semiconductor materials. Although GaN materials provide significantly higher efficiency in semiconductor devices than silicon, bulk GaN is quite expensive: according to the report, about $1900 or more for a 2-in. substrate compared to about $25 to $50 for a 6-in. silicon substrate. “The future of bulk GaN is going to come down to how it faces off against silicon substrates,” notes Pallavi Madakasira, Lux Research Analyst and the lead author of the report (titled Price or Performance: Bulk GaN Vies with Silicon for Value in LEDs, Power Electronics and Laser Diodes”).