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 throughout the world.
For decades, silicon has been the backbone of the technology industry, but we "have reached the theoretical limit on how much it can be improved," says Dan Qing Wang, Ph.D. from Harvard, who conducts GaN research. According to her, all materials have a so-called “exclusion zone” - a direct consequence of how well they can conduct electricity. In gallium nitride, it is larger than that of 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 heads the GaN project in the field of energy.
Portal The Verge spoke about the benefits of the material of the future As a result, GaN is much more efficient than its silicon counterparts, which also makes it possible to reduce the size of devices based on it. With it, you can not only reduce the chargers, but also make the system consume less energy. According to Kuball, replacing all modern electronics with GaN could potentially reduce energy consumption by 10 or 25 percent.
In addition, gallium nitride is better able to withstand high temperatures, which allows it to be used 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 be fixed, says Kuball.
By the way, this material has long been dominant in another area of production - in photonics. In particular, it is gallium nitride that is the source of the very "blue light" that is used to read Blu-ray discs. Tiny micron lasers (1/100 the thickness of a human hair) can already be used to create a new generation of microscopes.
So why not just replace silicon with GaN? The answer is simple - a colossal industry that has been producing silicon-based technology 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. Wang notes that gallium nitride has its weak points, and it is worth exploring them all before launching mass production of nitride-based carriers.
Anker experts claim that although silicon is cheaper than GaN, chargers based on the latter need fewer components for proper functioning, which equalizes both materials. Currently, many startups are working on the development of this technology - it is possible that in the 2020s, humanity will emerge from the silicon era and enter the era of gallium nitride.