GaN Chargers vs. Silicon: Do Materials Matter In A PD Charger?

Silicon Charger Benefits What Is A GaN Charger

A few weeks ago we took a dive into the world of power delivery, the new charging standard poised to revolutionize how we replenish the batteries in our devices. Loyal readers may recall we also dropped the news in that post that RAVPower has introduced a new line of 45W GaN PD chargers. The line is among the first to hit the market, and is nearly twice as powerful as the chargers of our nearest competitors. What we didn’t have time to do in that post was to really dig into what GaN charging (gallium nitride) is, and how chargers made from these components differ from those using traditional silicon.

Well, we’re just gonna have to rectify that now aren’t we?

GaN chargers GaN charging GaN power delivery GaN PD chargers PD Pioneer RAVPower Power Delivery Pionner The Verge 45W gallium nitride
Comparing a standard Apple Wall Charger with the RAVPower GaN PD Charger (courtesy of The Verge)

Silicon-based Battery Chargers: The Status Quo

We’ve written quite a bit in previous posts about how lithium-ion batteries work on a technical level, the most exhaustive of which is probably this one on why batteries lose their charge. We’ll quote an excerpt here to bring you up to speed:

“Think of batteries like a Tupperware container filled with chemicals, divided into three distinct sections. This is called the cell. On either side of the cell are electrodes or electrical terminals between which sits a chemical known as electrolyte. […] When your battery’s electrodes are plugged into a circuit, like the compartment on your TV remote, it forces the electrolyte to start transforming. The solution slowly begins changing into ion atoms, which have excess electrons. Those electrons, attracted by the batteries electrodes, move throughout the formed circuit when you plug in a battery into a device, creating electrical power.”

Today, lithium-ion, or li-ion, batteries are used in virtually all cellular phones and laptops. These batteries are rechargeable thanks to the properties of lithium ions, which can transition from positive to negative and back when plugged into a charger.

Chargers work by passing an electric current into the battery cells, forcing those lithium ions to transform. Since the 1980s, most battery chargers have been made from silicon components. Silicon transistors are extremely cheap to produce and conduct electricity much better than previously used materials. Transistors are used to convert raw electrical energy pulled from the outlet into a more controlled output of electrons; this is called switching. Over the decades, rapid improvements to the technology led to the high performance we’re accustomed to today.

RAVPower Gan Charger RAVPower 45W GaN AC Charger Apple 29W Power Adapter MacRumors
Apple’s 29W power adapter next to the RAVPower GaN Power Delivery Charger (courtesy of MacRumors)

But silicon has its physical limitations, and we’ve pretty much reached the end of the road as far as innovation using this material. Enter GaN chargers.

GaN Charging: Faster, Less Resistance, Lower Cost

Just as silicon made previous materials obsolete, so will GaN chargers eventually turn their silicon forefathers into fossils. GaN charging has been shown to be able to conduct electrons with 1000 times the efficiency of silicon. As a result, GaN chargers can be produced which are far smaller than even the most compact silicon devices. That’s helpful for the consumer, but it also makes a big difference for manufacturers. Being smaller, GaN PD chargers require fewer physical materials, and can be made more inexpensively in the same facilities currently producing silicon chargers.

As we’ve seen with the silicon era, innovation moves quickly once the industry has accepted a standard material, and it’s likely we haven’t scratched the surface of what GaN charging and GaN-based technology can do—which leads us back to power delivery.

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GaN charging in action (courtesy of Android Headlines)

RAVPower’s GaN Power Delivery Charger

RAVPower’s line of GaN PD chargers is the most efficient product currently on the market. At just 14mm thick, the wall charger fills batteries up to 2.5 times faster than comparable 5V/1A chargers. While charge times will vary based on the size, age and composition of the battery, we’ve benchmarked times of 0% to 50% charge on many devices in 30 minutes or less—compare this to just 20% with most silicon chargers. For speed, GaN Power Delivery is the way to go.

Our GaN PD chargers are compatible across USB standards past and present, meaning virtually any device will see improved re-charge times. In our view, GaN power delivery will be a big tech trend in 2019, and silicon will soon be the sole province of dollar store and gas station chargers. (We have some strong opinions on those.)

We invite you to browse our latest collection of GaN-based power delivery chargers. While you do so, think about the last time you were stuck in a tight situation with a drained smartphone—and how an extra 30% might’ve helped!

Got questions about GaN charging? Hit us up in the comments and our experts will do their best to answer!

2 Replies to “GaN Chargers vs. Silicon: Do Materials Matter In A PD Charger?

  1. Having already purchased one of the new Ga-N PD chargers for use with my chromebook and Pixel, I am impressed with its size and efficiency.

    Will these and new products be submitted for USB-IF Testing and Certification ( https://usb.org/products ) ? If so, can you publish their TID #?

    I’d love to see them put through their paces with one of the outside reviewers like @USBCGuy on Twitter.
    Thanks so much – Looking forward to whats next in Ga-N! (Two port 60W+ charger maybe?)

    1. Hi Jim,
      Great question. Well at this stage we have no plans, but it is something we will explore in 2019. If so, we will announce the details here or on our official Facebook account.

      As for outside reviewers, there are a few out there. We are currently doing some outreach so expect a number of the big reviewers to cover our GaN charger as well as our other new products currently in the pipeline. Thanks for reaching out to us!

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