The U.S. government supports domestic mass production of next-generation semiconductor chips.
Chip contract manufacturer Globalfoundries (GF) has been awarded $35 million in funding from the U.S. government to develop state-of-the-art gallium nitride (GaN) silicon semiconductors. The grant is intended to accelerate mass production of these high-tech components at GF’s plant in Essex Junction, Vermont. As we reported, GF received $30 million in federal funding a year ago for the further development of GaN chips.
Gallium nitride enables particularly energy-efficient chips with high performance in the smallest spaces. The increasing miniaturization of these components and growing computing power make GaN a material in demand because GaN semiconductor chips can withstand high voltages and temperatures in equal measure. Applications include 5G and 6G mobile communications, the automotive industry, and critical infrastructures such as power grids. GaN chips are also increasingly used in aerospace and defense applications. GF says it is working with the U.S. Department of Defense to equip the most sensitive national systems. The funding now being granted also comes from this ministry’s Trusted Access Program Office (TAPO). As part of the investment, GF intends to make the supply chains for gallium more independent and improve the security of supply and competitiveness of GaN chips from US production.
According to data (PDF) from the U.S. Geological Survey, China accounts for the largest share of gallium production worldwide. In the trade conflict between the two countries, the U.S. imposed export controls a year ago to restrict the People’s Republic’s access to chips manufactured with U.S. equipment, which can also be used in the military. Presumably, in response, China implemented export restrictions on the technology metals gallium and germanium this summer.