Interview with Alfred Hesener from Navitas Semiconductor

  • Alfred Hesener - Senior Director, Industrial and Consumer Applications, Navitas Semiconductor

everything PE interviewed Alfred Hesener from Navitas Semiconductor who is the Senior Director for Industrial and Consumer Applications at Navitas Semiconductor. Navitas Semiconductor focuses on developing and manufacturing power integrated circuits (ICs) using gallium nitride and silicon carbide technologies.

Q. Can you give us a brief history of Navitas Semiconductor? What products do you develop and what market segments do you cater to?

Alfred Hesener: Navitas Semiconductor was founded in 2014 and has since been a pioneer in the development of next-generation power-semiconductor technologies. We specialize in GaN (gallium nitride) and SiC (silicon carbide) power solutions. Our flagship products include GaNFast power ICs, which integrate GaN power and drive with control, sensing, and protection features, enabling faster charging, higher power density, and greater energy savings. Additionally, we offer GeneSiC power devices, optimized for high-power, high-voltage, and high-reliability applications.

Q. Can you tell us about your power electronic business? Has this business area been growing? How large is this business segment for Navitas?

Alfred Hesener: Navitas is 100% power - so 2023 revenue was almost $80M. Gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) are new, advanced technologies that are rapidly replacing legacy silicon chips, with an aggregate market opportunity estimated at over $22 billion per year by 2026. Navitas is a ‘pure-play’ next-gen company – with no legacy, obsolete silicon power chips to slow down growth.

Q. What type of Power Electronics products does Navitas Semiconductor develop?

Alfred Hesener: Navitas develops a wide range of power electronics products, including GaNFast power ICs, GeneSiC power devices, and GaNSense technologies. These products cater to diverse markets such as electric vehicles, solar energy, energy storage, industrial applications, data centers, and consumer electronics.

Q. Does Navitas have its foundries? What type of technologies do you use for your power electronics products? Can you tell us more about the GaN and SiC wafers/processes that you use?

Alfred Hesener: Navitas uses the ‘fabless’ manufacturing model, so requires minimal CapEx. Currently, Navitas utilizes Fab 2 at TSMC in Hsinchu, Taipei, for GaN processing, and European foundry X-Fab for SiC. We employ advanced technologies and processes to manufacture our GaN and SiC wafers, ensuring high performance, reliability, and efficiency in our power semiconductor solutions.

Q. What are some key markets that you develop power electronics products for? Which segment has been growing the fastest?

Alfred Hesener: Focus markets include EV, solar, energy storage, home appliance / industrial, data center, mobile, and consumer. Navitas created the beachhead mobile fast-charger market for GaN and is taking market share with SiC in higher-power markets.

Q. For which power electronics product segment do you see demand rising the most? What do attribute to this growth?

Alfred Hesener: AI data-center rack power is soaring from 30 kW to 100 kW+., posing significant power challenges. Navitas Semiconductor is addressing this with its roadmap for server power platforms, utilizing GaN and SiC technologies to rapidly increase power capacities. With major data-center customers already engaged, Navitas aims to meet the 3x increase in power demands within 12 - 18 months.

Navitas has a growing, diverse home appliance / industrial customer pipeline, with power conversion, charging, and motor drive applications.

With GaN for 400 V and SiC for 800 V and 1200 V systems, EV is a major opportunity – for on-board and roadside charging, DC-DC conversion, and traction drive.

Q. Can you tell us more about WBG Semiconductors?

Alfred Hesener: Wide bandgap semiconductors such as GaN and SiC offer several advantages over traditional silicon chips, including higher efficiency, faster switching speeds, and higher temperature operation. These characteristics make them ideal for various power electronics applications, especially in industries where energy efficiency and performance are critical.

Q. What are GaNFast and GaNSense Technologies? How does it compare to other available GaN technologies?

Alfred Hesener: GaNFast technology integrates GaN power and drive with control, sensing, and protection features, enabling faster charging, higher power density, and greater energy savings compared to traditional silicon-based solutions.

GaNSense technology goes even further - with advanced, autonomous sensing, logic, and protection capabilities, enhancing the performance and reliability of power systems.

Q. What are the important power electronic products that Navitas develops for the Automotive sector? Can you tell us more about the products you are developing for Electric Vehicles (EVs)?

Alfred Hesener: Electronic products that Navitas develops for the Automotive sector include:

GeneSiC 3rd generation of optimized fast (G3F) GeneSiC MOSFETs improves switching performance and system efficiency:

  • Optimized EMI
  • Low VF and QRR
  • Robust body diode
  • Cooler operation
  • 100% avalanche (UIL) tested
  • Ultra-low RDS(ON) vs. temperature dependency

GaNSafe 4th generation of gallium nitride technology, optimized for high power:

  • Protected, regulated, integrated gate-drive control, with zero gate-source loop inductance for reliable high-speed 2 MHz switching capability to maximize application power density.
  • High-speed short-circuit protection, with autonomous ‘detect and protect’ within 50 ns - 4x faster than competing discrete solutions.
  • Electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection of 2 kV, compared to zero for discrete GaN transistors.
  • 650 V continuous, and 800 V transient voltage capability to aid survival during extraordinary application conditions.
  • Easy-to-use, complete, high-power, high-reliability, high-performance power IC with only 4 pins, to accelerate customer designs.
  • Programmable turn-on and turn-off speeds (dV/dt) to simplify EMI regulatory requirements.

Navitas is developing key power electronic solutions for automotive, especially EVs:

1. On-board Chargers (OBCs): Utilizing GaNFast ICs and GeneSiC MOSFETs, these OBCs enable faster EV battery charging, enhancing convenience for owners.

2. DC-DC Converters: Developed with GaN and SiC, these converters efficiently regulate voltage in EVs, optimizing energy transfer and reducing power loss.

3. Traction Inverters: Powered by GaNFast and GeneSiC, these inverters convert EV battery power into AC power for smooth acceleration, enhancing vehicle performance.

Navitas aims to revolutionize the EV market by leveraging GaN and SiC, enabling faster charging, longer-range, and cost-effective electric vehicles.

Q. Can you tell us more about Navitas' GaNSense Half-Bridge Power ICs? How are they designed to power the next generation of power systems?

Alfred Hesener: GaNSense Half-Bridge Power ICs represent the next stage in the high-frequency revolution of power electronics. These GaNFast ICs integrate two GaN FETs, drive, control, sensing, and protection in a single package, enabling high efficiency, power density, and reliability.

Offered in a compact 6 x 8 mm PQFN package, they simplify system designs and accelerate time-to-prototype and revenue. Designed to support soft-switching topologies and leverage GaN's fast-switching capability, they allow next-generation power systems to operate in the MHz range, making them ideal for a wide range of applications, including electric vehicles, renewable energy, and industrial systems.

Q. What is the roadmap for Navitas' power electronics product portfolio? Are there any new or upcoming sectors that you are looking to target?

Alfred Hesener: Navitas introduces a new generation of GaN power ICs and GeneSiC power components every 18 months - with new features, functions, and efficiency increases. Each time, we focus on the overall customer system – to deliver higher performance with lower system cost.