Gallium nitride surpasses silicon: a new era of technology awaits us
The other day, Anker introduced its new tiny power supply. According to the company, such a small size of the device is due to the component that was used instead of silicon, namely gallium nitride (GaN). The growing popularity of this transparent glass-like material suggests that one day it can surpass silicon and reduce energy consumption worldwide.
For many decades, silicon has been the backbone of the technology industry, but we "have reached the theoretical limit of how much it can be improved, " says Dan Qing Wang, PhD from Harvard, who conducts GaN research. According to her, all materials have a so-called “restricted area” - a direct consequence of how well they can conduct electricity. Gallium nitride has more of it than silicon, which means it can withstand a higher voltage and current can pass through the device at a higher speed. This is explained by Martin Kuball, a physicist from the University of Bristol, who leads the GaN project in the field of energy.
The Verge portal spoke about the benefits of future material
As a result, GaN is much more efficient than its silicon counterparts, which also reduces the size of devices based on it. With it, you can not only reduce chargers, but also make the system consume less power. According to Kuball, replacing all modern electronics with GaN can potentially reduce energy consumption by 10 or 25 percent.
In addition, gallium nitride can better withstand high temperatures, which allows its use in a very aggressive environment. “In modern cars, all electronic components are installed far from the engine so as not to overheat, but this can also be fixed, ” says Kuball.
By the way, this material has long dominated in another area of production - in photonics. In particular, gallium nitride is the source of the very “blue light” that is used to read Blu-ray discs. Tiny microns thick (1/100 of the thickness of a human hair) can now be used to create a new generation of microscopes.
So why can't you just replace silicon with GaN? The answer is simple - a colossal industry that has been manufacturing silicon-based technologies for a decade. Such a global transition cannot be carried out as soon as possible. In addition, new material constantly has to be tested for reliability. Van notes that gallium nitride also has its weaknesses, and it is worth exploring all of them before starting mass production of nitride-based carriers.
Anker experts say that even though silicon is cheaper than GaN, the chargers based on the latter need fewer components to fully function, which equalizes both materials. Currently, many startups are working on the development of this technology - it is possible that in the 2020s, mankind will leave the silicon era and enter the era of gallium nitride.