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Rapid advances in the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), wireless technologies, and wireless charging are some of the biggest drivers behind the development of new electronic components in 2022. Coupled with digitalization across most manufacturing sectors with big trends like Industry 4.0, smart cities and health care, green engineering, 5G networks, and autonomous mobility, you have complex challenges around size, power consumption, connectivity, sensor processing, and even ease of implementation. Together, these are driving some of the biggest component trends in the industry.
However, over the next several years, one of the biggest issues that the industry and the world faces is energy consumption, particularly with a growing portfolio of IoT devices. There is also a greater concern for the environment and the need to reduce greenhouse gases, which has put more pressure on the industry to develop new components that address these concerns.
Designers face two big challenges in 2022: reducing power consumption and improving efficiency. Here is where you will see three key component trends advancing over the next few years — gallium nitride (GaN) power devices, battery management systems (BMS) for electric vehicles (EVs), and energy harvesting.
Other technologies making significant advances are light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensors for improved safety in advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles (AVs) and gas sensors to improve the health and safety of humans.
1. GaN power devices
What’s driving the GaN power IC market is plenty. GaN is a wide-bandgap (WBG) material that offers higher switching frequency, lower losses, higher power density, and better thermal management compared with silicon (Si) counterparts. In terms of basic properties like bandgap, critical electric field, and electron mobility, they’ve all been proven to be better than silicon.
GaN power and RF devices, along with WBG semiconductor silicon carbide (SiC), are making headway in 5G networks. These WBG power ICs are finding homes in the above-6-GHz and millimeter-wave applications. Watch for advances particularly in GaN power amplifiers (PAs) and PA modules. These devices are getting smaller and are eliminating or at least reducing the need for external components thanks to their higher performance and/or higher integration.
Another big area of adoption is in industrial motor control, where GaN can replace MOSFETs and IGBTs. Expect to see new GaN HEMT transistors and power stages using proprietary GaN technologies to achieve higher efficiency and lower on-resistance.
The Yole Group expects the GaN market for datacom/telecom to reach more than $617.8 million in 2027, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 69% over the forecast period of 2021–2027. Another big demand driver will be automotive, which Yole forecasts to exceed $227 million by 2027, with a 99% CAGR over the forecast period.
However, one of the biggest areas of growth and advances is GaN fast chargers for mobile devices. There have been a variety of fast-charger introductions with power ratings of 65 W, 100 W, 140 W, 150 W, and 250 W. GaN device manufacturers like GaN Systems and Navitas report significantly faster charging with much lighter and smaller designs, with energy savings in the neighborhood of up to 40% compared with silicon solutions.
What we can expect in the new GaN roadmap are improvements in efficiency, size, and integration. There is also the expectation that costs will improve with higher adoption.
2. EV battery management systems
A BMS manages and monitors rechargeable battery cells or packs. It is a critical component of an EV and is comprised of several subsystems that provide cell balancing, protection, and status notification on the health of the batteries.
Safety is the big issue, but these BMSes also play a role in energy savings. Key challenges for the product designers are the optimization of power consumption via monitoring and controlling functions and ensuring the safety and long life of the battery. At the same time, they also need to reduce size and weight.
The BMS market is already a big industry: It is expected to reach $10.8 billion in 2027, up from $7.9 billion in 2020, according to ReportLinker.com. However, the rise of EV demand along with government mandates will propel new advances and demand for these safety systems. All major automakers have announced EV production goals of 40% to 50% of their annual US volumes by 2030. The US government is investing about $135 billion in EV manufacturing, battery production, and charging stations.
Range anxiety is still a thing for consumers despite newer EVs delivering greater than 200 miles on a full charge. BMSes are critical in eliminating this fear by optimizing efficiency.
In addition to helping extend driving range, power management IC makers are also tasked with reducing design complexity and costs. A few manufacturers are offering wireless BMSes (wBMS) that are compliant with ASIL-D requirements.
Industry players believe wBMS will become a bigger trend in the EV market due to its lower design complexity and cost compared with systems that use traditional wire harnessing. These systems eliminate cables, connectors, and passive components, resulting in a weight reduction that extends the driving range.
3. Energy-harvesting devices
With the proliferation of IoT edge devices and wearables, energy-harvesting technology is expected to see wider adoption, enabling devices to operate without batteries. Emerging applications include health-care wearables and remote health-care monitoring.
Energy harvesting can be used autonomously as an independent source of power or as an auxiliary power source for batteries. These systems harness small amounts of ambient energy from a variety of sources, such as vibration, solar, wind, thermal, and RF. There has also been work done in harvesting energy from other sources like power lines, ocean waves, and even trees.
The global energy-harvesting-system market is expected to reach $986.3 million in 2028, up from $488.3 million in 2021, according to Grandview Research. The big growth driver is IoT, including smart cities, smart homes, industrial IoT, and machine-to-machine communications. This is driven by growing environmental awareness, according to the report, including greenhouse gas emission-reduction targets and rising demand for energy.
These systems are comprised of many components, including sensors, sensor interface ICs, transducers, power management ICs, and storage devices like supercapacitors or small rechargeable batteries.
In the future, we can expect to see more companies investigating new energy-harvesting sources, including those that can be used in wireless sensor networks for machine condition monitoring. In addition, one of the big areas of development will be power management ICs, which handle the energy from the harvesting subsystem. This gets even more complicated if multiple energy sources are needed to meet the system’s power requirements. Other advances will likely include smaller energy storage devices and lower-power sensors.
4. LiDAR in automotive
Industry players call LiDAR a key enabling technology and building block for AVs. LiDAR sensors are expected to make a huge move into ADAS and AVs over the next five years. These devices provide precise and real-time 3D images of a vehicle’s surroundings. The automotive LiDAR market is expected to reach $2.0 billion in 2027, up from $38 million in 2021, according to the Yole Group.
For imaging, traditional mechanical scanning still holds the most design wins at 69%, according to Yole, although MEMS micromirror and flash LiDAR are finding homes in automotive.
LiDARs have transitioned from big, clunky, mechanical spinning solutions on top of a vehicle that cost thousands of dollars to much smaller solid-state devices. However, the market is still kind of a Wild West, with more than 80 LiDAR companies with almost as many technologies, so automakers will continue to have a lot of options to evaluate.
One example is XenomatiX’s novel XenoLidar-X true-solid-state LiDAR for ADAS and autonomous driving, which ranges more than 200 meters, operates in all lighting and weather conditions, and uses “four-dimensional AI” to process the image or the point cloud.
A few of the latest LiDAR innovations are also focused on making it easier to integrate into vehicle systems. One example is AEye Inc.’s 4Sight Intelligent Sensing Platform, which provides adaptive LiDAR for software-defined vehicles, a growing trend in the automotive industry that enables functions and features via software as well as over-the-air updates.
LiDAR innovators will continue to focus on improvements in object detection, the ability to extract more and reliable data from the sensing systems, and easier implementation into vehicles.
5. Gas sensors
Traditional applications for gas sensors are found in environmental monitoring, industrial, medical, and automotive applications. However, they are making inroads in smart-home and smart-city monitoring applications, driven by a growing concern for indoor air quality and outdoor pollution, measuring gases in the parts-per-billion (ppb) range. They are also adding new AI features.
One growing trend for these “e-noses” is the combination of gas sensors with machine-learning algorithms, according to IDTechEx. By targeting more selective measurements of air quality than existing gas sensors, they are opening up new applications, such as for wildfire monitoring.
For example, Bosch Sensortec’s new gas sensor, the BME688, is part of Dryad’s Silvanet Wildfire Sensor that helps detect incipient forest fires and wirelessly notify authorities. The BME688 uses AI and integrated high-linearity and high-accuracy pressure, humidity, and temperature sensors and incorporates a gas scanner function, which can be customized for sensitivity, selectivity, data rate, and power consumption.
For outdoor air-quality monitoring, Renesas Electronics Corp.’s ZMOD4510 gas sensor incorporates a new AI-based algorithm. The AI-based algorithm enables ultra-low-power selective ozone measurements and can quantify selective ozone levels in concentrations as low as 20 ppb.
Looking ahead, with the use of software and advanced materials to further miniaturize, IDTechEx predicts gas sensors will be used in emerging applications for smartphones, wearables, and smart packaging. However, work still needs to be done around standardization, said the market researcher.