Researchers have determined that gallium nitride (GaN) could become the next best semiconductor for electronics because it would immensely cut energy usage.
Cambridge Electronics Inc. (CEI) has announced a new line of GaN transistors and power electronic circuits. This line promises to reduce energy usage by 10 to 20 percent in consumer electronics, data centers and electric cars by 2025. CEI plans to use these transistors to make data centers use less energy, electric cars more powerful and cheaper to build and power adapters one-third of the size, according to Phys.org.
“CEI’s GaN transistors have at least one-tenth the resistance of such silicon-based transistors, according to the company. This allows for much higher energy-efficiency, and orders-of-magnitude faster switching frequency—meaning power-electronics systems with these components can be made much smaller,” according to Phys.org.
Typically GaN transistors have not been in the market because of safety issues and high manufacturing costs. “Power transistors are designed to flow high currents when on, and to block high voltages when off. Should the circuit break or fail, the transistors must default to the ‘off’ position to cut the current to avoid short circuits and other issues—an important feature of silicon power transistors. But GaN transistors are typically ‘normally on’—meaning, by default, they’ll always allow a flow of current, which has historically been difficult to correct,” according to Phys.org.
Researchers have addressed these issues by modifying the GaN transistor structure and developing transistors that are ‘normally off.’
“To make traditional GaN transistors, scientists grow a thin layer of GaN on top of a substrate. The MIT researchers layered different materials with disparate compositions in their GaN transistors. Finding the precise mix allowed a new kind of GaN transistors that go to the off position by default,” according to researchers.