Gallium Nitride could enable higher efficiency electronics
GALLIUM Nitride (GaN) could be the next semiconductor for power electronics, enabling much higher efficiency than silicon.
MIT spinout Cambridge Electronics has now announced a line of GaN transistors and power electronic circuits that promise to cut energy usage in data centers, electric cars, and consumer devices by 10 to 20 percent worldwide by 2025.
Power electronics are used to convert electricity to higher or lower voltages and different currents. Many of these systems rely on silicon transistors that switch on and off to regulate voltage but, due to speed and resistance constraints, waste energy as heat.
CEI’s GeN transistors exhibit electrical resistance that is approximately one-tenth of that in silicon-based transistors. This allows for much higher energy-efficiency, and orders-of-magnitude faster switching frequencyThe number of complete cycles or vibrations per unit of time. Rate of alternation in an AC current. Expressed in cycles per second or hertz (Hz).—meaning power-electronics systems with these components can be made much smaller.
The resulting power electronics will make data centres less energy intensive, cheap and powerful electric cars, and miniaturised power adapters.
While GaN transistors have several benefits over silicon, safetyClass X capacitors are used in “across-the-line” applications where their failure would not lead to electric shock. Class X safety caps are used between the “live” wires carrying the incoming AC current. In this position, a capacitor failure should not cause any electrical shock hazards, rather, a capacitor failure “between-the-lines” would usually cause a fuse or circuit breaker to open. drawbacks and expensive manufacturing methods have largely kept them off the market. MIT researchers managed to overcome these issues through design innovations made in the late 2000s.
Additionally, GaN transistors are typically “normally on”, allowing a flow of current by default. Using resources in MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratory, the researchers—supported by Department of Defense and DOE grants—developed GaN transistors that were “normally off” by modifying the structure of the material.