Spalling GaN Transistors

New York,
New York
Project Term:
04/01/2014 - 10/31/2019

Critical Need:

Power semiconductor devices are critical to America’s energy infrastructure—all electronics, from laptops to electric motors, rely on them to control or convert electrical energy in order to operate properly. Unfortunately, the performance and efficiency of today’s dominant power semiconductor device material, Silicon, suffer at higher power levels and higher temperature. This results in substantial loss of efficiency across our energy infrastructure. Innovative new semiconductor materials, device architectures, and fabrication processes promise to improve the performance and efficiency of existing electronic devices and to pave the way for next-generation power electronics.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Columbia University will create high-performance, low-cost, vertical gallium nitride (GaN) devices using a technique called spalling, which involves exfoliating a working circuit and transferring it to another material. Columbia and its project partners will spall and bond entire transistors from high-performance GaN wafers to lower cost silicon substrates. Substrates are thin wafers of semiconducting material needed to power devices like transistors and integrated circuits. GaN substrates operate much more efficiently than silicon substrates, particularly at high voltages, but the high cost of GaN is a barrier to its widespread use. The spalling technique developed by Columbia will allow GaN substrates to be reused, lowering their manufacturing cost.

Potential Impact:

If successful, Columbia’s GaN transfer method will facilitate low-cost, high-power transistors for industrial motors and other automotive applications.


Advances in power electronics could facilitate greater adoption of electric vehicles, which in turn could help reduce U.S. oil imports.


More efficient power electronics systems promise reduced electricity consumption, resulting in fewer harmful energy-related emissions.


More efficient power electronics would use less energy, saving American families and business owners money on their power bills.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Isik Kizilyalli
Project Contact:
Prof. Kenneth Shepard
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


IBM T. J. Watson Research Center
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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