GaN transistors save cost and increase efficiency

12th April 2017
Alice Matthews

Power densities are increasing three times or more in many applications as the demand for more power in electronics continues to increase, while the space allowable for power continues to decrease. This increase in power has the collateral effect of producing more heat. More heat traditionally results in the use of higher capacity fans and bigger heat sinks to prevent overheating of the electronic components and system failure.

By replacing legacy power management circuits based on silicon MOSFETs and IGBTs with Gallium Nitride (GaN) transistor-based circuits, customers have designed power electronic systems that deliver three times the power in the same size, or the same power in a third of the size while miniturising or completely eliminating the requirement for fans and heat sinks. It is the discrete GaN transistor which today is enabling design engineers with the performance required to meet increasingly demanding system specifications so they may successfully target a diverse array of new applications.

Additionally, with the analogue IC industry‘s acceptance of GaN transistors as a fundamental building block, a steady stream of controller and driver products that leverage the benefits of GaN are entering the market. Linear Technology, Analog Devices, and Peregrine Semiconductor are examples of IC companies who have developed products and reference designs to leverage the advantages GaN transistors bring to their solutions. For example, one Linear Technology design achieves the same output as their silicon solution in 50% the size, using no fan and operating at higher efficiency.

Paul Wiener, Vice President of Strategic Marketing at GaN Systems, explained: “As more and more customers launch commercial systems that use GaN Systems’ GaN transistors in their power electronics designs, they save cost and gain a significant competitive advantage in their markets.”

Demonstrations of customer-built systems that use GaN transistors in their power designs to reduce weight by two to four times and size by three to six times, while operating without active cooling were featured at the 2017 Applied Power Electronics Conference and Exposition (APEC 2017), in Tampa, Florida.

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