GaN Systems Releases 2021 Predictions for Power Electronics IndustryDecember 22, 2020 by Shannon Cuthrell
GaN Systems, a leading manufacturer of Gallium Nitride-based power conversion devices, released a series of predictions set to define the power electronics market in 2021.
GaN Systems recently unveiled its 2021 Technology Predictions in Power Electronics Report, detailing how GaN (Gallium Nitride) power technology is poised to shake up several markets in 2021 — from power charges and adapters to consumer audio to data centers to automotive.
Image courtesy of GaN Systems
The report centers around this year’s rapid acceleration from early adoption to the mainstream deployment of GaN technologies. The markets that rely the most on power devices have hit the limitations of traditional silicon-based power technologies and are now embracing lighter, smaller, and more efficient GaN power systems at reduced costs.
Silicon has reached its limitations in solving critical power systems challenges, and in the coming year companies who have yet to embrace #GaN technology will be rushing to catch up.@Jim_Witham looks ahead with predictions on #powerelectronics in 2021.— GaN Systems Inc (@GaNSystems) December 14, 2020
Headquartered in Canada, GaN Systems provides GaN power transistors across a range of markets, including consumer electronics, data centers, renewable energy, industrial and automotive applications.
Last December, the company released its 2020 Top Technology Trends in Power report, highlighting increased demand for technologies addressing global power consumption and delivery. GaN Systems called for semiconductor companies to lead the way in power system design innovation to meet energy efficiency challenges.
GaN Systems’ 2021 Technology Predictions in Power Electronics echoes similar themes but features a sharp focus on four key markets. Here’s an overview:
Power Chargers and Adapters
GaN Systems cites the aftermarket development of over 100 new aftermarket models of chargers and adapters for smartphones, tablets, and gaming devices—providing solid ground for the next year of GaN charger adoption, along with the growth of multi-port adapters. Due to these shifts, GaN System predicts the charging market to move from aftermarket to in-the-box; laptop, PC, and phone companies will provide faster chargers in small devices shipped in the box.
More efficient, higher power, and size-flexible designs will be paramount for the growing smart home applications market, spanning voice and facial recognition, AI, and biometrics technologies embedded in smart speakers, sensors, and other devices.
In the industrial space, portable test equipment, handheld scanners, mobile displays, robotics, and medical and supply chain applications will need faster and higher-power charging systems to meet new demand in heavily automated factories and warehouses.
Power and sound quality are the two shared standards for audio devices of any segment, GaN Systems says, including pro-audio, home audio and portable audio. By the end of next year, the market’s most dominant brands will adopt GaN-based audio amplifiers and power supplies.
Thus arises the need for smaller, lighter and higher quality sound systems to address both enterprise and consumer demand. GaN Systems highlights the growth of the Class-D audio amplifier market, which Allied Market Research projects will grow from around $2.5 billion in 2018 to $4.9 billion by 2026, at a compound annual growth rate of 8.4%.
Switch-mode power supply design also allows engineers to develop higher quality audio products with less time and at a lower price, GaN Systems added.
GaN Systems cited a recent Gartner study that forecasted an oncoming 6.2% increase in data center infrastructure spending worldwide, rising to $200 billion in 2021 as planned construction projects resume after pandemic slowdown and rebound over the next four years.
With this in mind, GaN Systems predicts that the data center market will implement more GaN power supply designs in 2021, coinciding with the heightened demand for systems to tackle infrastructure efficiency.
Thus, GaN technologies with increased power density to pack more storage and memory will allow data center capacity to expand without building new facilities.
Further, the European Union’s 2023 policies to regulate power supply and efficiency requirements in data centers will provide more opportunities for GaN applications.
GaN Systems CEO Jim Witham said he sees Data Centers as one of the largest areas for GaN's growth in 2021.
"Over the next year, GaN‘s major impact will be centered on enabling new levels of power efficiency and density in data centers," Witham said. "GaN will feature in applications like UPS, rack ACDC power supplies, and the 48V Intermediate Bus Converters."
OEM and Tier 1 vehicle suppliers are ramping up their adoption of GaN and battery technologies to overcome challenges surrounding range and pricing in the electric vehicle market. GaN Systems predicts that the next year will bring more research and development in GaN technologies as global R&D initiatives resume after COVID-19 shutdowns.
R&D initiatives will focus on building smaller and more power-dense systems to be paired with battery technology systems. As a result, automotive manufacturers will move away from a conservative approach to adopting new technology—now embracing the benefits of GaN’s reliability and cost-efficiency in new vehicle designs.
Witham has seen many automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers designing GaN because of its reliability, cost, capacity, and performance benefits, he said.
"We’ll see GaN designed in onboard chargers (OBC), OBC/DCDC converter combinations, and traction inverters in 2021. Production is expected to start in 2022," Witham said.
With the conversational shift to GaN's reliability, Witham said GaN technologies are being more utilized than ever.
"Customer validation in the automotive market is the Gold Standard to demonstrate product performance, value, and reliability," Witham said.
2021 and Beyond
"The conversation has changed from a focus on early adopters and risk – to one of proven reliability and market acceptance," Witham said.
Finding its place in the renewable energy sector, Witham said the industry will see more designs that leverage GaN technology for applications such as energy storage systems.
"They can benefit from increased efficiencies such as improved round trip and bidirectional efficiencies, reduction in power conversion steps, efficiencies at light load as well as small size and lower system cost," Witham said. "Other areas that will likely use GaN in the future include solar inverters and micro-inverters in residential and commercial markets."