Gallium nitride (GaN) chargers: what is this technology used for?

Gallium nitride (GaN) chargers: what is this technology used for?


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Chargers are coming tomorrow! These new models are made of gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors, which replace silicon, and are compact and more powerful. Explanation…

Belkin BOOST Home Charger ↑ CHARGE ™ 65W USB-C with 2 ports



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You certainly haven’t missed the fact that chargers are getting more powerful, but also, paradoxically, getting more compact. Technical and technological performance thanks to gallium nitride, also called GaN. A semiconductor that has been working wonders in the field for a few years, but which is currently developing mainly in chargers.

Gallium nitride (GaN), what is it?

Briefly, gallium nitride is a binary compound of gallium (Ga) and nitrogen (N). Like silicon, it is a semiconductor. It is this compound, which has been present in the industry since the early 1990s, that we owe to the blue LEDs, the fruit of the team of Japanese researcher Shuji Nakamura. It was in 2019 that we found the first traces of this semiconductor in smartphone chargers.

An exploded view of the Anker GaN charger.  The shape factor of the motherboard is reduced due to the small dimensions of the gallium nitride semiconductor.  © Anker

An exploded view of the Anker GaN charger. The shape factor of the motherboard is reduced due to the small dimensions of the gallium nitride semiconductor. © Anker

The operation of the gallium nitride charger is relatively simple. According to the manufacturer Belkin, for example, on its website, the use of gallium nitride makes it possible to reduce the size of chargers, because this component heats up much less than silicon; which allows you to place different components in a smaller space.
This limited heating is caused by a gap in the band almost three times that of silicon. Understand that this semiconductor has a much better ability to conduct electricity. So it handles high temperatures and high voltages much better. Thus, when the energy capacity is 1.12 eV for silicon, it is 3.4 eV for gallium nitride.

Belkin BOOST Home Charger ↑ CHARGE ™ 30W USB-C


Belkin BOOST Home Charger ↑ CHARGE ™ 30W USB-C

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How the pricing table works

Anker Nano II 65W (715)


Anker Nano II 65W (715)

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Gallium nitride in chargers

These features allow you to store multiple components in a more compact enclosure, increasing performance at the same size. The 65 W GaN charger is therefore barely thicker than the classic 25 W charging block. This space and weight saving is very important at a time when manufacturers are offering increasingly powerful chargers. While we achieve outputs of 120 to 135 W, the chargers supplied with our smartphones are still silicon. But chargers with gallium nitride are starting to make a name for themselves. Anker, Belkin, Ugreen or even Xiaomi have already jumped on this technology with an offer of blocks from 30 to 130 W. It is obvious that the costs of this new technology are currently higher and this is reflected in the selling price.

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For example, the classic 120W Xiaomi charger, although already compact, is almost the size of a 100W GaN charger … equipped with 4 USB ports (3 USB-C and 1 USB-A)! The compactness / number of USB ports ratio is quite impressive, all in a block of 285 grams.
At the same power, we can assume that a standard charger is about 40% larger than a GaN charging block.

The 100W GaN charger is practically the size of a charging pad

The 100W GaN charger is practically the size of a “classic” 120W charging pad, but it has 3 extra ports.

Power distribution

In addition to these benefits, GaN allows you to offer chargers equipped with Power Delivery technology (better known as PD). A charging protocol that is of course not new, but which is not systematically present in the charging blocks. For example, on our typical charger, the 100W Ugreen PD, two of the three USB-C ports can deliver such output power – but when you connect more than one device, this power is divided between the different devices. visual below).

© Ugreen.

What future does GaN have?

Various analysts and researchers predict a rapid decline in the cost of gallium nitride products. If the development is cheaper than with silicon, the final price of the charger is currently higher than with the classic adapter. Currently, a 30W charger sells for around € 30, 65W between € 40 and € 50 and 100W can reach € 80. The most expensive thing we could find (130W charger sold by Razer) is $ 180.

As smartphone manufacturers sell fewer and fewer charging blocks with their products, we should not expect them to be involved in the development of GaN chargers. However, some are working on this topic, such as Xiaomi, which offers the first 65W charger in its store. Apple already sells GaN chargers for its recent 14 and 16 “MacBook Pros, as well as Samsung with its 45W block. But as an accompaniment to smartphones, the brand still prefers to offer performance-enhancing silicon blocks, rather than just reducing the size.

According to technology leader GaN Systems, 2022 should be a year when everything will accelerate. The new chargers that come to market will be even more efficient (more powerful, better performance, etc.) and will be able to meet the needs of consumers who need to charge several devices quickly.

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