POWER INDUSTRY GaN Systems' 2021 predictions for the power industry
At the end of what has been a disruptive year, GaN Systems has released its 2021 Technology Predictions in Power Electronics Report, a detailed look at how GaN power technology will itself disrupt the power electronics market in 2021.
Headquartered in Canada, GaN Systems is a leading manufacturer of Gallium Nitride (GaN) power conversion devices. Covering everything from power chargers to automotive and data centers to consumer devices, its 2021 Technology Predictions in Power Electronics Report sets out how GaN will continue to make lots of noise in and shake up power electronics markets in 2021.
This year’s report focuses on the rapid acceleration of GaN technologies from initial early adoption to mainstream deployment. This, the report says, has been brought about by the markets that rely on power devices hitting the technical limitations of traditional silicon-based power technologies. These are now starting to embrace GaN technologies as silicon’s lighter, smaller, and more efficient successor at reduced costs.
Silicon’s limitations in power systems and electronics
Since the very first silicon transistor in 1947, its rate of progress has been huge. While the earliest integrated circuits consisted of only a few thousands of these transistors, today’s most advanced chips are pushing into the trillions. This is down to ‘Moore’s Law’ - the observation of Gordon Moore, chairman emeritus of Intel Corporation, that transistor density will double every two years.
While this doubling of transistor density has enabled the major technological advances and innovations that have shaped our world, it can’t go on forever. Silicon chips are getting smaller and smaller, with current semiconductor manufacturing at the 5nm/7nm process node, and they can only get so small before becoming unstable. With the 3nm process node expected to be here by 2022 for context, a single strand of DNA is 2.5nm wide—it’s likely that we will soon reach silicon’s physical limit.
According to GaN Systems, however, silicon has already reached its limitations in solving the challenges in critical power systems. In its 2021 predictions, the GaN technology giant looks ahead at the trends likely to shape the sector.
While GaN Systems’ report covers a range of areas, there’s a specific focus on four key markets: i) Power Chargers and Adapters, ii) Consumer Audio, iii) Data Centers, and iv) Automotive.
According to GaN Systems, 2020 was the year of the GaN charger, seeing in more than 100 new models of chargers and adapters in the market for phones, tablets, and handheld gaming devices. In 2021, this trend is expected to continue and extend to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), moving from a once niche position as an after-market offering to the mainstream in-the-box standard, especially among consumer electronics.
Power and sound quality are two shared standards for all audio devices, says the report. This includes professional audio, home audio, and portable audio. By the end of 2021, the market’s leading brands will have already adopted GaN amplifiers and power supplies. Thus, there’s a need for smaller, lighter, and higher quality sound systems that will address both consumer and enterprise demand.
GaN Systems highlights projections from Allied Market Research, which expects the Class-D audio amplifier market to grow from around $2.5 billion in 2018 to $4.9 billion by 2026 at a compound annual growth rate of 8.4 percent.
A recent study by Gartner, also highlighted by GaN Systems, forecasts that there’ll be a 6.2 percent global rise in data center infrastructure spending to $200 billion in 2021.
With this in mind, GaN Systems predicts that the data center market will begin to adopt more GaN power supplies by the end of the year. This will coincide with increased demand for systems to tackle infrastructure efficiency and allow data centers to increase capacity without building new facilities.
"Over the next year, GaN‘s major impact will be centered on enabling new levels of power efficiency and density in data centers," said Jim Witham, CEO of GaN Systems.
OEMs and Tier 1 vehicle suppliers are starting to increase their adoption of GaN technologies to overcome range and pricing challenges in the electric vehicle market. GaN Systems predicts that 2021 will bring more automotive R&D initiatives focusing on building smaller and more power-dense systems that can be paired with advances in battery technology systems.
While automotive manufacturers have traditionally been conservative in their adoption of new technology, the increased pressure on manufacturers to deliver EVs with price and range similar to today’s internal combustion engine vehicles is likely to change this.