Gallium nitride is the silicon of the future

Anker has debuted its tiny new power brick, and the company is crediting its small size with the component it uses instead of silicon: gallium nitride (GaN). It’s the latest example of the growing popularity of this transparent, glass-like material that could one day unseat silicon and cut energy use worldwide.

For decades now, silicon has been the backbone of the technology industry, but we are “reaching a theoretical limit on how much it can be improved,” says Danqing Wang, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University who conducts GaN research. All materials have a “band gap,” which is related to how well they can conduct electricity. GaN has a wider band gap than silicon, which means it can sustain higher voltages than silicon can…

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