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GaN stands for gallium nitride. It is a material used in semiconductors that gained prominence in the 1990s. Today, silicon is used in most semiconductors, but GaN is slowly replacing it. It was first used to make LEDs, but today it is used in a variety of applications, including chargers. But why was this technology introduced to chargers? We need to see how fast charging works and why GaN makes it easy to make fast chargers. Before fast charging was introduced to the battery world, most chargers were limited to a charging rate of five watts. Companies did this to prevent battery overheating and to avoid shortening battery life.
However, with the advent of fast charging technologies, chargers have increased in size and heat dissipation. And this is where GaN can help. To combat this, companies have worked to increase the power of chargers. By increasing the power, smartphones can support fast charging and fast charging technologies. With the increase in power, companies have also worked to reduce the size of the power supply. And that’s where GaN technology comes in. You have probably heard of GaN when you were looking for a charger for your smartphone.
The advantages of a gallium nitride charger
- GaN chargers are physically smaller than current chargers. This is because gallium nitride chargers do not require as many components as silicon chargers. The material is capable of conducting much higher voltages than silicon over time.
- GaN chargers are not only more efficient in energy transfer, but also less energy is wasted through heat. So more power goes to whatever you’re trying to charge. In general, when components transfer power to your devices more efficiently, you need less. As a result, GaN power blocks and chargers will become noticeably smaller as the technology becomes more widespread.
- There are other benefits too, such as a higher switching frequency, which allows for faster wireless power transfer, and larger “air gaps” between the charger and the device.
- Currently, GaN semiconductors generally cost more than the silicon type. However, due to the improved efficiency, there is less reliance on additional materials such as heat sinks, filters, and circuit elements. A manufacturer expects cost savings of 10 to 20 percent in this area. This could get even better once the economic benefits of large-scale production come into play.
What is gallium nitride?
- Gallium nitride is a semiconductor material made famous in the 1990s for the production of LEDs. Gallium nitride was used to make the first white LEDs, blue lasers, and full-color LED displays that could be seen in daylight. In Blu-ray DVD players, GaN creates the blue light that is used to read data from the DVD.
- It looks like GaN will soon replace silicon in many applications. Silicon manufacturers have worked tirelessly for decades to improve silicon-based transistors. According to Moore’s Law (named for Fairchild Semiconductor co-founder and later Intel CEO Gordon Moore), the number of transistors in a silicon integrated circuit doubles every two years.
- This observation dates back to 1965 and has largely held for the last 50 years. In 2010, however, progress in the semiconductor industry slowed below that pace for the first time. Many analysts (and Moore himself) believe that Moore’s Law will be obsolete by 2025.
- Production of GaN transistors increased in 2006. Thanks to improved manufacturing processes, GaN transistors can be produced in the same facilities as silicon transistors. This keeps costs down and encourages more silicon manufacturers to produce GaN transistors instead.
Where can you buy a GaN charger today
- Although not yet widely available, you can buy GaN-powered chargers from companies like Anker and RAVPower. These are USB-C chargers that can provide USB-C power to modern laptops.
- The Anker PowerPort Atom PD1 is a 30-watt charger with fast charging capabilities. It is suitable for phones, tablets, laptops and more. It is about 40 percent smaller than a charger that does not use GaN technology. Anker also offers the 60-watt PowerPort Atom PD2 charger, which has two USB-C ports so you can charge multiple devices at once, and the PowerPort Atom III Slim, which has four ports. RAVPower has a similar offer.
- Its Pioneer 30W PD offers modest performance with a USB-C port. The more powerful Pioneer 61W PD offers more power, but only has one USB-C port. If you want to use any of these chargers, your laptop must support USB-C power.
Final words: What is a GaN charger and why should you have one?
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