In an energy-conscious world, we must turn to new developments to thrive. Inefficient use of electricity means that we generate more than we actually need. This extra generation not only costs consumers more, but it damages the environment. We need to find a way for this to be solved, and gallium nitride may very well be that solution.
Silicon vs. Gallium Nitride
While silicon has always been very important to the technology industry, it is starting to show its limits. In terms of energy loss and efficiency, gallium nitride is definitely better than silicon. In fact, should all devices on Earth be replaced with gallium nitride devices, we would save 10-25 per cent in power usage. This is because gallium nitride’s “band gap”, a property that affects how well a material can conduct electricity, is much wider than silicon. This means that it can survive higher voltages and that the electricity can run through the device faster. This, in turn, allows for gallium nitride’s high energy efficiency.
You can also put more gallium nitride in the same space compared to silicon. This is because gallium nitride can function at much higher temperatures than silicon, which allows for less heatsinks and fans. More gallium nitride in the same area means smaller devices (or same sized devices) with better power efficiency, such as a phone charger.
Another use for gallium nitride’s higher heat resistance is in design. Electronics in cars are kept away from the main source of heat: the engine. This is because they are made from silicon. If the electronics were made from gallium nitride, then you could remove this design issue.
What are the current uses of gallium nitride?
Gallium nitride has long been used in lasers, photonics and LEDs. Blu-ray devices have used gallium nitride for some time now, too. This is because gallium nitride is one of the rare materials that give off blue light. There is also a gallium nitride transistor made by Panasonic used in power converters with an efficiency rating of up to 99%. Anker has also created powerbanks that use gallium nitride. It is notable for being quite small and yet still effective due to its use of gallium nitride.
Are there any downsides to gallium nitride?
It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though. Growing gallium nitride in specific ways can lead to defects that make it less effective. Gallium nitride’s reliability isn’t proven yet, either. There are still many experiments to be done to satisfy manufacturers, and it is also more expensive than silicon. Plus, most factories and manufacturers are geared towards silicon. This means that you’ll lose out on a lot of already-established efficiencies if you switch from silicon to gallium nitride.
It’s going to be a while before we see gallium nitride really take over the market. For now, because of its price point and ubiquitousness, silicon still reigns supreme. However it is currently being looked into by multiple startups and research programs. Its high heat resistance and efficiency make it an obvious choice for development.
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