Power Semiconductors

Transphorm to Take Over Fujitsu GaN Power Business

02 December 2013

Transphorm Inc. (Goleta, Calif.), a 2007 startup using gallium nitride for power switching applications, is going to take over Fujitsu Semiconductor's GaN power business.

In return, Fujitsu will take a minority equity position in Transphorm and provide the company with manufacturing capacity. Fujitsu will also embed GaN power devices in Fujitsu products as part of energy-saving initiatives. Fujitsu Semiconductor's Aizu-Wakamatsu wafer fab will be put on an exclusive contract to process wafers for Transphorm.

Fujitsu will continue to operate its GaN RF device business and to conduct R&D on GaN for RF and power supply modules, the company said.

Transphorm's GaN-on-silicon technology combines the inherent benefit of GaN material together with the lower cost of making circuits on 6-inch and 200mm diameter silicon wafers for which manufacturing equipment is readily available. Transphorm is among a group of companies seeking to leverage the inherent efficiency of GaN and its capability for high-speed switching to reduce energy loses in such gear as switch-mode power supplies, variable-frequency motor drives and solar inverters.

Fujitsu's decision to back Transphorm is an endorsement of the startup's technology. The combination of Fujitsu Semiconductor GaN power and Transphorm is intended to bring GaN power device to market quickly and in volume, the two companies said in a statement. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

Transphorm's approach includes manufacturing; it has a pilot line at its headquarters where it forms epitaxial GaN on top of silicon wafers prior to forming power transistors. These transistors can display breakdown voltages in excess of 600V making them suitable for main electricity supply applications.

The company, although based in southern California has strong Japanese connections. In October 2012 it announced the closing of a $35 million financing round led by Innovation Network Corp. of Japan (INCJ) and Nihon Inter Electronics Co. (NIEC). In May of 2013 Transphorm announced that Fumihide Esaka would take the position of CEO at Transphorm. Esaka was previously the CEO of NIEC.

Esaka replaced Transphorm co-founder Umesh Mishra, who is a professor in the Electronics and Computer Engineering department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he has been director of several GaN research centers. Mishra continues as an academic and as chief technology officer of Transphorm.

"Integrating Transphorm's operations with Fujitsu will enable high-volume and high-performance GaN power device production at Aizu-Wakamatsu, and we will also benefit from Fujitsu's strong technological capabilities underpinned by Fujitsu Groups' years of developments in the field of GaN power device," said Esaka, in a statement.

"We have positioned GaN power devices as one of our future core products for the Aizu-Wakamatsu plant. The integration announced today will enable us to collaborate with Transphorm and leverage their technologies to accelerate the drive to mass production, and, we anticipate, contribute to the vitality of the Aizu-Wakamatsu region," said Haruki Okasa, president of Fujitsu Semiconductor, in the same statement.

To execute the merger Fujitsu and Fujitsu Semiconductor will establish a company in Japan that contains the combined design and development assets as well as intellectual property rights in GaN power devices. That company will then become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Transphorm Inc. Fujitsu will also make a cash investment in Transphorm the size of which was not disclosed.

The employees at Fujitsu and Fujitsu Semiconductor who are directly involved in the GaN power device business will be reassigned to the new company.

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