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“Fast Chargers … Going GaN Fast!!”

In my prior blogs, I spoke about how highly-efficient and fast-switching GaN power ICs are combining together with soft-switching topologies and high-frequency magnetics to create a whole new class of high-efficiency and high-density power electronics. In this blog, let’s talk about one of the biggest market opportunities for these new power systems: fast chargers .

Slow & Bulky Chargers

Over the last decade, mobile devices have seen significant advances, while the chargers available to power those mobile devices seem virtually unchanged. Smartphones have seen a doubling of their average screen size from under 3” to nearly 6” and the introduction of tablets and phablets push those screens in to the range of 7-10”. Battery capacities for smartphones have seen a similar jump from around 1,500-4,000 mAh with tablets in the range of 5,000-7,000 mAh. All of these advances have improved the consumer experience with impressive displays while maintaining the same or longer battery life and actually reducing the thickness and weight of the devices, dramatically enhancing their mobile appeal.

Unfortunately, the chargers are a different story… they have actually increased their size and weight trying to keep up with the power demands of these larger displays and batteries, only to deliver longer charging times that can sometimes reach 4 hours to charge a device fully. Even with notebook PCs, we have seen a new class of ultra-thin notebooks that have reduced profile and weight by 70% or more, while their corresponding chargers have seen little improvement in size or weight.

Smartphones on the Go: 50% Charge in 15 minutes

With GaN power ICs, mobile chargers can increase their power densities by over 300%. Such a dramatic density improvement can translate in to more power in the same form factor to achieve 3x faster charger times. Qualcomm’s new Quick Charge 4.0 technology enables 50% charging of smartphones in just 15 minutes. For a typical smartphone with a 2,750 mAh battery, this will require a charger that delivers over 25 W. With today’s low-frequency silicon-based chargers, this will translate in to a 2-4x increase in the size and weight of the charger. With GaN power ICs, QC4.0 charging speeds can be achieved with the same or smaller form factor and weight as today’s slow chargers. Let’s go GaN Fast!

Kick the Brick: Goodbye to Bulky Notebook Chargers

For notebook PCs, a 300% power density improvement will translate in to a 3x size and weight reduction for a typical 45-65 W notebook charger. This can mean that your notebook “brick” charger can evolve into a small, light, wall-mount adapter, and dramatically lighten your load when you’re on the go. Kick the Brick!

One Charger for All Devices

In addition to the size, weight and “waiting” of today’s chargers, we all suffer due to a lack of standard connectors, which translates in to carrying sometimes many different chargers to power your various mobile devices. Luckily, this too is about to change. A new, low-cost and versatile USB “Type C” connector is now available – which all major OEMs have agreed to adopt – and paves the way for the creation of a universal charger that can power all your devices. When you combine the new Type C connector with the 3x increase in power density that is made possible by GaN power ICs, you have a single charger that has a small form-factor and the power to simultaneously quick-charge any of your devices in minutes, not hours. Less Down Time and More Up Time!

The GaN Fast Road Ahead

Fast-charging mobility is just one of the many market opportunities for this new class of GaN power IC-enabled power systems. In future blogs, we will explore the possibilities with enterprise equipment, LED lighting, solar inverters, electric vehicles & much, much more. Stay tuned…

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