The German conglomerate also relies on alternative materials such as gallium nitride in its microchips.
Hardly any electrical device can do without them these days: Microchips made of semiconductor materials such as silicon, gallium or germanium. They control numerous functions in cars, e-bikes, washing machines, computers and smartphones. One of the leading German producers is the Bosch conglomerate, which has been manufacturing the tiny high-tech components in Reutlingen since 1970 and, since last year, also in Dresden. One of the world’s most modern chip factories for the production of chips on 300-millimeter wafers was opened in the midst of what is known as Silicon Saxony – in reference to Silicon Valley in California. One billion euros went into the construction. Support for what the company claims is the largest single investment in its history came from the IPCEI on Microelectronics, a program sponsored by the EU Commission and the German federal and state governments.
Bosch has now announced further investments in semiconductor technology – around three billion euros by 2026 under the successor program IPCEI 2 alone. Among the areas of innovation to be driven forward are automated driving and electromobility. Electric vehicles require significantly more chips than cars with internal-combustion engines. Bosch has so far relied on silicon carbide chips in this area, enabling it to increase the range of electric cars by up to six percent, says Dr. Stefan Hartung, chairman of the board of management. However, due to the high demand for these chips and the rapid market growth, the company is exploring further technologies to make power electronics even more efficient and cost-effective. Specifically, Hartung said, the development of gallium nitride (GaN)-based chips is being examined. These are already used in some laptop and smartphone chargers, where they enable faster charging with a smaller footprint. GaN chips are also used in the transmission towers for the new 5G mobile communications standard.