“From “brick” mobile phones to bulky TV sets, power modules once occupied a considerable amount of space in Electronic and electrical products, and the market’s demand for higher power density is still increasing.
From “brick” mobile phones to bulky TV sets, power modules once occupied a considerable amount of space in electronic and electrical products, and the market’s demand for higher power density is still increasing.
Innovations in the field of silicon power technology once greatly reduced the size of these applications, but it is difficult to go further. Under the existing size specifications, silicon materials cannot output higher power at the required frequency. For the upcoming 5G wireless network, as well as future robots, renewable energy, and data center technologies, power is a crucial factor.
“Engineers are now in a very awkward situation. On the one hand, they cannot continue to increase the power in the existing space, but at the same time they do not want to increase the space required for the equipment,” said Masoud Beheshti, product manager of Texas Instruments. Size, then only power density can be increased.”
Learn how to use Texas Instruments’ GaN product line to achieve higher power density
The era of GaN
For more than 60 years, silicon has been the basic material in electrical components. It is widely used in AC and DC conversion, and DC voltage is adjusted to meet the needs of many applications, from mobile phones to industrial robots. Although the necessary components have been continuously improved and optimized, the physical limit is an insurmountable gap that lies in front of silicon materials.
At the same time, a new GaN-based power supply and conversion system is emerging, with lower power loss and less heat generation. As high temperatures increase operating costs, interfere with network signals, and induce equipment failures, these characteristics are particularly important.
GaN can handle higher frequency and higher energy efficiency power supplies. Compared with silicon components, it can deliver the same power while halving the size and energy consumption. As a result, power density can be increased, helping customers meet higher power requirements without increasing the design space.
Higher frequency switching means that GaN can convert a larger range of power at a time, reducing power conversion in complex devices. Since each power conversion generates new energy consumption, this is a significant advantage for many high-voltage applications.
Of course, a technology that has been in continuous development for 60 years will not be replaced overnight, but after years of research, practical verification and reliability testing, GaN will definitely become the best technology to solve the power density problem. Texas Instruments has performed 20 million hours of accelerated reliability testing on GaN devices at operating temperatures and voltages higher than silicon materials. During this test time, GlobalFlyer, the world record holder for long-range flight, can fly 259,740 times around the earth.
“We are convinced that the GaN process, technology and equipment are fully qualified and have the conditions for mass production,” Masoud said.
Texas Instruments and the Engineering Design Development Association Standards Agency shared these GaN qualification agreements and will be responsible for its GaN qualification certification committee.
The future development of GaN
In some key industries where power density is a priority feature, GaN has begun to replace silicon materials. “At present, Texas Instruments has completed the packaging and testing of GaN. For customers whose power density is a priority factor, they have a new choice,” said Arianna Rajabi, a product marketing engineer at Texas Instruments.
The best applicable industries for mass production of GaN power modules include:
Manufacturing: The current general robot arm does not actually integrate all the electronic components required for the operation of the arm. Due to the large size and low energy efficiency of power conversion and motor drive components, they are usually installed in a separate cabinet and connected to the robot arm through long-distance wiring. This reduces the production efficiency of industrial robots per cubic meter. Using GaN technology, it is easier to integrate the drive and power conversion components into the robot. This can simplify the design, reduce tedious wiring and reduce operating costs.
Data center: As the market’s demand for digital services increases, data centers are undergoing a transformation, and they are now using 48V DC power supply for direct power supply. The traditional silicon power conversion module cannot effectively convert the 48V voltage into the low voltage required by most computer hardware at a time. The intermediate steps will reduce the power efficiency of the data center. GaN can reduce the voltage from 48V to a point-of-load voltage before being delivered to servers and chips. This can significantly reduce power distribution losses and reduce conversion losses by 30%.
Wireless service: The large-scale 5G network coverage requires operators to deploy equipment with higher power and operating frequency. Given that network operators do not want to increase the size of signal tower equipment, the power density advantage of GaN can meet their needs.
Renewable energy: The generation and storage of renewable energy also requires power conversion, so the efficiency advantage of GaN can play a key role. In renewable energy planning, smart grids are usually used to store energy. If the wind turbines are stationary or the solar panels no longer absorb sunlight, it will be a very significant advantage to transfer electrical energy into and out of large-capacity batteries more efficiently. Texas Instruments and partners have confirmed that GaN can convert 10 kilowatts of renewable energy with an efficiency of 90%, which is a very good performance benchmark for power companies.
In the future, GaN will continue to expand to consumer electronics and other applications to create thinner flat Panel displays and reduce energy waste in rechargeable devices.
“If you just need a 3% or 4% energy efficiency improvement, you can use many other methods to achieve it,” Masoud said. “However, if you want to double the power density, then GaN is your first choice.”