Power electronics engineers are continually looking for the perfect switch, the one that will efficiently convert the electrical raw energy into a controlled energy with a useful flow of electrons. Ideally, the one that allows switching in zero-time, carrying infinite current and blocking infinite voltage. In practice, faster switches with less capacitance and lower conduction loss. Let’s introduce GaN!
Gallium Nitride (GaN) is an inorganic chemical compound of gallium and nitrogen that has an hexagonal crystalline structure of high hardness and mechanical stability. It is a semiconductor material with a 3.4eV bandgap, three times that of silicon, which is why it is considered a wide bandgap material or semiconductor (WBG). WBG allows operation at much higher voltages, frequencies and temperatures than conventional silicon. This translates into smaller inductors, capacitors and heatsinks, the possible elimination of fans and the conversion from liquid to air cooling in a switched power converter. The switching and conduction losses of GaN transistors are lower, as the wider bandgap allows the development of semiconductors with very short or narrow depletion regions, leading to device structures with a very high carrier density. With much smaller transistors and shorter current paths, very low resistance and capacitance are achieved, allowing for much higher switching speeds.
In power electronic applications, GaN-based high electron mobility transistors (HEMT) are often used, which have excellent electrical properties (high electron mobility, high carrier concentration, and high critical electric field). These are field effect transistors (FET) that incorporate an heterojunction called 2DEG between two materials with different bandgaps as channel, instead of a doped region as in the case of MOSFET.
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