The average, everyday person might not be familiar with gallium nitride, also known as GaN, but there is a good chance they've heard of silicon, a semiconductor that's been used for decades and found in every computer and most electronics.
As a semiconductor, GaN is similar to silicon, but it differs in its elemental makeup and properties, which makes it a more robust, rugged type of electronic material. GaN's qualities allow it to operate at nearly five times higher power and temperature than silicon and commercial commodity semiconductors in certain applications.
Solid-state (or LED) lighting and wireless data transmitters for cell phone base stations are two examples where GaN has made a considerable impact over the past few years. Power switching components for solar inverters and electric vehicles are also moving towards GaN technology due to its ability to improve efficiency.
"GaN technology ultimately saves energy compared to incumbent technologies and can typically be packaged in smaller and lighter form factors," said Dr. David Meyer, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) section head for wide bandgap materials and devices in the Electronics Science and Technology Division.