A compound semiconductor is composed of chemical elements belonging to two or more different groups in the periodic table, e.g., III–V. Compound semiconductors have unique material properties such as direct energy bandgap, high breakdown electric fields, and high electron mobility, compared to silicon, enabling photonic, high-speed, and high-power device technologies. Electrons in compound semiconductors move much faster than those in silicon, enabling processing that is more than 100 times faster.
While silicon semiconductors made possible today’s electronics industry, compound semiconductors will drive the next wave of advances, from 5G to robotics, more efficient renewable energy, and autonomous vehicles. These semiconductors can operate at lower voltage, emit and sense light, generate microwaves, and are magnetically sensitive and resistant to heat. They consume only a fraction of the energy that current materials consume to store, route, transmit, and detect data.
Compound semiconductors will underpin the Internet of Things—for which 5G is essential—by virtue of their greater power efficiency (vital for battery-powered devices) and optical properties (used in sensors for new imaging techniques implemented in connected cars, healthcare, and industrial applications). Other applications are LEDs (gallium arsenide) and lasers (indium phosphide); power devices (e.g., power MOSFETs and diodes) are transitioning to silicon carbide and gallium nitride for better performance.
Electrons in compound semiconductors move much faster than those in silicon, accelerating processing by more than 100X.