What’s GaN? And why’s it the next big thing in charging?

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Standards is a series explaining various technological protocols, examining their practical implementation and where we might find them in the devices around us.

Fast charging has been one of the most useful features of smartphones over the past couple of years. Some companies have developed their own charging standards, and because of this, the charging bricks supplied by these manufacturers often get bulky.

To solve this problem, accessory manufacturers are using a new material called gallium nitride (GaN) instead of silicon. In this article, we’ll see how this new material will transform our charging solutions and make our gadgets even more easily portable.

What is GaN?

To quickly charge your phone battery, most fast charging methods increase the current or voltage. The idea is to send more energy to the battery to recharge it in less time.

However, in doing so, the charger’s components – many of which contain silicon – heat up and limit its ability to use it safely. Gallium nitride is an alternative semiconductor material that could be used in place of silicon.

Let’s talk about gallium nitride. It has been used to fabricate arrays of LEDs and solar cells on satellites and, vitally, has a higher bandgap than silicon. Bandgap is the energy (or energy gap) required to send electrons from the valance band (the outermost band of an atom) to the conductive band (where they could move freely; this could be used to generate current).

GaN’s band gap (3.4 eV) is larger than silicon (1.1 eV). This means that GaN could run at higher voltages and produce less heat.

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