Patent Landscaping – Gallium Nitride

Introduction

This blog takes a look into the patenting activity around Gallium Nitride uncovering the companies, inventors, and key applications.

GaN is a binary III-V direct bandgap semiconductor commonly used in LEDs. Its wide-band gap of 3.4 eV affords its special properties for applications in optoelectronic, high-power and high-frequency devices. Because GaN offers very high breakdown voltages, high electron mobility, and saturation velocity it is also an ideal candidate for high-power and high-temperature microwave applications like RF power amplifiers at microwave frequencies and high-voltage switching devices for power grids. Solutions that use GaN-based RF transistors are also replacing the magnetrons used in microwave ovens.

Gallium Nitride (GaN) transistor models have evolved from GaAs (gallium arsenide) transistor models; however there are many advantages GaN offers:

  • Higher operating voltage (over 100-V breakdown)
  • Higher operating temperature (over 150°C channel temperature)
  • Higher power density (5 to 30 W/mm)
  • Durable and crack-resistant material

GaN devices are often grown on SiC (silicon carbide) substrates, but to achieve lower-cost GaN devices, they can be grown on sapphire and silicon wafers. GaN’s wide bandgap allows for higher breakdown voltages and operation at high temperatures. The high thermal conductivity of SiC makes it a better substrate than silicon for power amplifier applications that require good heat sinking.

Patent Search Strategy

Using PatSeer following search query was used to create patent set.

Image0

TAC– Title, Abstract, Claims

PBC– Publication Country

PBY – Publication Year

UC-US Classification

The query was directed to search through title, abstract and claims and was limited to US publications published during last 10 years. Result set of 7888 records with one publication per family (INPADOC Families) was generated and Imported in Patent iNSIGHT Pro.

IP Analysis

IP analysis will showcase the publication trend, Top companies,  activity around the world, Gallium Nitride – Application Areas vs. Crystal Structures, Landscape for Gallium Nitride applications and Analysis of significant companies within Gallium Nitride.

Publication Trend

The Bar chart is about Publication trend from last ten year.

It can be seen that publications for GaN are constantly rising from 2009 with the real surge in the activity around this technology has happened since 2012.It’s clear the current activity around these technologies is likely to continue seeing more innovation in the near future.

 

Image1_Pub Trend

Top Companies

The Bar chart deals with Top companies in the field.

 

Image2_Top Companies

Note: Records for Matsushita Electrical Ind Co Ltd have not been grouped with Panasonic Corp in spite of their merger with Panasonic, as some of the patents owned by both these companies have not been transferred to a single company.

Research activity around world

In terms of regional pockets where patent protection is being sought most frequently for these technologies, USleads the count, followed by the JPand KR.
The table below ranks top priority countries and helps provide an indication of where innovation in this area is originating:

 

Image3_Priority Country

Filing Trend of Patents across Top 15 US Classifications

The chart shows the spread of patenting activity across various subclasses of technologiescorresponding to US Class.

The brown trend line associated with US Class 257/76 {Active solid-state devices with -Specified Wide Band Gap (1.5ev)} shows an impressive spike from 2009 onwards. In the chart, it can be seen that US Class 257/76and 257/98 are most favored subclasses under which 1048 and 721 patents have been categorized respectively. These are followed by 257/13, 257/103, 438/478, 257/79 under which 628, 601, 526,467patents have been categorized respectively.

 

Image4_US Class Filing Trend_15

Company activity across Crystal Structures

The chart below shows research activity of companies across different crystal structures.

Univ California has research activity across all types of crystal structures.Intel and Corning focus only on Wurtzite.

 

Image5_Cos VS Crystal Structure_20

Company activity across Applications

The chart below shows research activity of companies across different applications.

Cree leads in research around high electron mobility transistors and defence with 82 and 28 records respectively. Samsung and Univ California are the only companies focusing on high resolution printing with 9 and 7 records respectively.

 

Image6_Cos VS Applications

Company activity across Physical Properties

The chart below shows research activity of companies across different physical properties.

Avogy focuses only in N-type.Panasonic leads in research across P-type. Sumitomo has fairly comparable portfolio across all the physical properties.

 

Image7_Cos VS PhyProp_20

Gallium Nitride – Application Areas vs. Crystal Structures

In the map, each structure is connected through links whose thickness and color intensity is directly proportional to the number of records relating them.

The number (in red) next to each line represents the number of records present in a particular crystal structure and application areas. It can be seen Wurtzite crystal structure is used in more number of applications as compared to other crystal structures. Aviation,Defenceand Satellite industry industries use onlyWurtzite and Zinc Blende crystal structures.

 

Image8_appln vs crystal

Note: Orange nodes represent the crystal structure, whereas purple nodes refer toapplication areas.

Landscape for Gallium Nitride applications

The contour map below represents key concepts for different applications of Gallium Nitridewith respect to complete patent portfolio.

Clusters for photo diode and photo detector appearcloser to each other as they share high contextual and conceptual similarity between them. The nodes were coloured by companies.

Image9_Application key text

The entire report is available for download here: Patent Landscaping – Gallium Nitride

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