Researches at MIT’s Cambridge Electronics Inc. have announced a material called “gallium nitride (GaN) they believe will become the next semiconductor for electronics, bringing more efficiency than silicon. The predicted energy savings using gallium nitride is 10-20% and would affect data centers, electric cars and most all consumer electronics. Gallium nitrade transistors have been around but up until now there were safety concerns and manufacturing issues that needed to be solved before it could be used. GaN transistors have one-tenth the resistance of silicon transistors and that is what gives them a higher efficiency.
“We always talk about GaN as gallium and nitrogen, but you can modify the basic GaN material, add impurities and other elements, to change its properties,” said CEI co-founder Tomas Palacios, an MIT associate professor who co-invented the technology.
The researches figured a way to lower manufacturing costs by incorporating silicon transistor methods with GaN methods. CEI’s current project are laptop power adapters that are around 1.5 cubic inches in volume, some of the smallest made. Other applicable uses for GaN transistors are large data centers operated by large corporations. Data centers use about 2% of the electricity in the United States and GaN outfitted electronics could save a good portion of that bill.
It will be interesting to see if MIT/CEI can make this a viable consumer and enterprise standard that could save on our overall energy consumption.
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