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

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Tomorrow’s chargers are coming! Built using gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductors-which replace silicon-these new models are more compact and more powerful. Explanations …

Belkin BOOST CHARGE ™ 65W USB-C 2-Port Home Charger



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Sure enough you have noticed that the chargers have become more powerful, but on the contrary much more compact. A technical and technological efficacy due to gallium nitride, also called GaN. A semiconductor that has been doing real miracles in the industry for a few years now, but is currently thriving especially on chargers.

Gallium Nitride (GaN), what is it?

In summary, gallium nitride is a binary compound of gallium (Ga) and nitrogen (N). Like silicon, it is a semiconductor. This compound, which has been in the industry since the early 90s, to which we owe blue LEDs, is the fruit of the group of Japanese researcher Shuji Nakamura. It was 2019 that we saw the first traces of this semiconductor in smartphone chargers.

Exploded looking at an Anker GaN charger.  The shape factor of the motherboard is reduced due to the small size of the semiconductor containing gallium nitride.  © Anker

Exploded looking at an Anker GaN charger. The shape factor of the motherboard is reduced due to the small size of the semiconductor containing gallium nitride. © Anker

Operation of a gallium nitride charger is rather simple. As specified by the manufacturer Belkin for example on its site, the use of gallium nitride makes it possible to reduce the size of the chargers, because this element heats much less than silicon; allowing different components to be placed in less space.
This limited heating due to a band gap is almost three times that of silicon. Understand this that this semiconductor has a better ability to conduct electricity. So it handles high temperature and high voltage better. Therefore, if the energy capacity is 1.12 eV for silicon, it is 3.4 eV for gallium nitride.

Belkin BOOST CHARGE ™ 30W USB-C Home Charger


Belkin BOOST CHARGE ™ 30W USB-C Home Charger

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Anker Nano II 65W (715)


Anker Nano II 65W (715)

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Gallium nitride in chargers

These qualities make it possible to store multiple components in a more compact case and therefore to increase power for the same size. Therefore, a 65 W GaN charger is almost thicker than the classic 25 W charging block. This saving of space and weight is especially important at a time when manufacturers are offering more powerful chargers. While we achieve a power of 120 to 135 W, the chargers provided by our smartphones are still silicon. But gallium nitride chargers are starting to make a name for themselves. Anker, Belkin, Ugreen or even Xiaomi have already jumped on this technology by offering blocks from 30 to 130 W. Apparently the cost of this new technology is currently higher, and this is reflected in the selling price. .

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For example, a classic Xiaomi 120 W charger, even when compact, is almost the size of a 100 W GaN charger … has 4 USB ports (3 USB-C and 1 USB-A)! The compactness / number of USB ports ratio is very impressive, all in a 285 gram block.
With the same power, we can consider that a standard charger is about 40% larger than a GaN charging block.

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

The 100W GaN charger is about the same size as a “classic” 120W charging pad, but it has 3 additional ports.

A distribution of power

In addition to these advantages, GaN makes it possible to offer chargers equipped with Power Delivery technology (better known by the acronym PD). A recharge protocol that is clearly not new, but is not systematically present in charging blocks. For example, in our standard charger, a 100 W Ugreen PD, two of the three USB-C ports can provide such output power-but if you connect more than one device, this power will be distributed between different devices. device. connected (see visual below).

© Ugreen.

What is the future of GaN?

Various analysts and researchers predict a rapid reduction in the cost of products using gallium nitride. If the charger is less expensive than silicon, the final price of a charger, at present, is higher than that of a traditional adapter. Currently, a 30 W charger sells for almost 30 €, a 65 W between 40 and 50 €, and a 100 W can reach 80 €. The most expensive we could find (a 130W charger sold by Razer) was $ 180.

As long as smartphone manufacturers sell smaller and smaller charging blocks in their products, we should not expect to see them participate in the development of GaN chargers. However, others are working on the topic, such as Xiaomi, which is offering an initial 65 W charger in its store. Apple has also resold GaN chargers for its recent 14 and 16 “MacBook Pros, as has Samsung with its 45 W block. But when it comes to smartphones, brands prefer offer silicon blocks, which increase power, rather than simply by reducing the size.

According to technology leader GaN Systems, 2022 is set to be the year where everything gets stronger. New chargers coming to the market will be more efficient (more powerful, better performance, etc.) and will be able to meet the needs of consumers who need to quickly charge multiple devices.

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