It’s hard to think of any other industry that has evolved more rapidly, consistently, and significantly than consumer electronics. Since the very first electron flowed through a power switch, we have seen innovation after innovation for generations in the devices that have helped define and influence our modern lives.
Moore’s Law predicts that the number of transistors on a microchip will double every two years, while cost will simultaneously halve. Essentially, electronics will continue to become more powerful, more compact, and more cost-efficient as time progresses. And that’s largely been the case since the observation was introduced in 1965. That is, until roughly the past decade.
Electronics’ steady rise in advancement has finally hit a wall, and the innovations have noticeably slowed to a crawl. Even Moore himself believes his law will become obsolete within the next few years. But it’s not necessarily a lack of ideas that’s the culprit. It’s the periodic table.
Silicon, the element famously found in most circuit boards and transistors, has reached its limit of service. The industry demands smaller and more performant chips, and silicon can no longer take the heat (literally). So, what’s the solution? What miraculous material can enter the field, switch places with silicon, and restart the flow of Moore’s Law?
The answer is GaN.
What is GaN?
Gallium nitride (GaN) is a compound recently favored in transistors for its high power density and ability to work at high temperatures and voltages. Although it has yet to take the throne from silicon (Si) as the most commonly used semiconductor, GaN does have potential to revolutionize the performance and manufacturing of consumer electronics.
You’re likely already familiar with GaN but didn’t realize it. In Blu-ray players, GaN produces the signature blue light that reads data from the discs. Its application in the development of white LED light, prominently used in indoor lighting and flat panel televisions, won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics. GaN is also used in the automotive, aerospace, and military industries. It’s a pretty big deal.
Of course, GaN also holds considerable advantages when it comes to power delivery—a fact that Anker was keenly eager to explore for its chargers.
Anker GaNPrime™: The Pioneer of GaN Charging Technology
In 2018, Anker released the PowerPort III Atom: the first charger to incorporate our proprietary GaN technology, GaNPrime™. Featuring a slimmer size, more efficient power delivery, and producing less heat, the PowerPort III Atom signaled a promising new beginning for charging devices. GaNPrime™ was the upgrade that electronics needed for a faster, greener future.
As one of the earliest companies to apply GaN to consumer charging products and help popularize the technology, Anker continues to devote research and development into expanding the use of GaNPrime™ to empower a smarter and more eco-conscious world. Over the last four years, Anker’s engineers have diligently worked to achieve similar results in efficiency and product lifespan – only this time not with a pocket-sized mobile charger, but with portable power that can handle anything at home or outdoors.
The arrival of the Anker PowerHouse 767 marks the world’s first ultra-efficient portable power station backed by GaNPrime™ technology. This is a seismic shift in the direction of portable power, one that will cause ripples from now into the future. To fully understand its impact, let’s explore the current limitations of power delivery - and how GaN offers a solution.
In Search of a Better Transistor
For as long as there has been power, electrical engineers have tirelessly pursued a delivery solution that offers perfect efficiency – a conductor insusceptible to energy loss.
First, there was the vacuum tube. While a landmark achievement, its poor efficiency, high cost of production, and immense heat output quickly showed the technology’s limitations. Although still beloved by vintage music gear enthusiasts, vacuum tubes’ practicality has since diminished.
Next came the transistor: the basis of all subsequent power delivery. Germanium was briefly the element of choice for this more efficient technology, before the more stable silicon took its place. And the rest is history.
But is silicon truly the ideal semiconductor? Does it come anywhere close to the coveted “perfect efficiency” that engineers wish for? While this dream discovery may still be a ways off, gallium nitride is nevertheless a capable candidate worth exploring. Let’s see why.
How Transistors Work
For power to flow, we first must have a material capable of conducting electricity.
A true conductor, such as copper, allows electric current to flow through it freely. On the flip side, an insulator such as plastic does not allow any electric flow. We need a material that’s somewhere in-between, so that we can switch the current on and off at will. That’s where semiconductorscome in, such as silicon and gallium nitride.
Power transistors work like valves, in that electrical current only flows through them once voltage is applied (when you switch "on" or engage the circuit). How quickly and easily that current flows is determined by its bandgap.
In very basic terms, bandgap measures the ability of a material to conduct electricity. The wider the bandgap, or the higher number of electronvolts (eV) it can sustain, the better its potential to move electrons.
Silicon has a bandgap of around 1.1 eV. Gallium nitride is triple that, at 3.4 eV. While this means GaN requires a higher voltage to move into a conductive state, it can also sustain much higher temperatures—and have many more applications that silicon can't handle. This greater potential actually classifies GaN as a wide-bandgap semiconductor.
GaN's high electron mobility allows current to flow faster, requiring less energy. For example, LED lights require less energy to illuminate compared to older incandescent lights. Less energy also means less heat. We can apply this logic to something like a silicon-based CPU, which typically can't operate at temperatures above 100℃ without glitching or overheating and dying. A CPU powered by GaN, however, could safely operate at temps even beyond 300℃!
Practically speaking, this speedier electric flow means that a GaN chip can handle more voltage than a same-sized silicon chip. Or, you could get similar performance and just make everything smaller. Two exciting possibilities when it comes to portable power!
EFFICIENCY - The Main Benefit of GaN in Portable Power
There are two main areas in a portable power station that are susceptible to losing energy. The first are the batteries themselves. Due to the nature of lithium battery chemistry, a small amount of energy loss occurs from internal resistance, even without actively engaging the unit. (For a deeper understanding of how the LiFePO4 batteries in a PowerHouse function, refer to our articles here.
The second and primary factor of energy loss is due to the inverter. Optimizing the flow of electricity here will improve performance of the overall unit—and as we'll see, applying GaN technology makes a significant advancement in efficiency:
Better Efficiency → Less Energy Loss → More Bang for Your Buck
Even the very best portable power stations on the market, including Anker's, operate at a maximum efficiency of about 90%. This means that every time you charge or discharge the battery, you'll waste around 10% of it due to energy loss. So with a 2000Wh battery capacity, 200Wh is being lost. Let's say you're going to power a 200W device; in reality, you'll only be able to run it for 9 hours instead of the expected 10 hours. This isn't a case of false advertising or poor product design by any brand; it's just the nature of power efficiency.
Enter GaNPrime™. The Anker PowerHouse 767 is able to achieve a 96% efficiency, meaning only 4% capacity is lost. Compared to the industry average 10% loss, this is a 60% reduction in energy loss.
Efficiency like this brings many real-world benefits. For starters, you're getting a much greater value out of your portable power station, which can now maximize the potential of its batteries. But in cases of emergency backup power, where every last watt-hour counts, efficiency keeps you resilient for longer when you most need it.
A typical 2,048Wh portable power station loses about 205Wh from energy loss. By comparison, the PowerHouse 767 with GaNPrime™ only loses 82Wh. What can you do with that extra 123Wh? When the power grid is down, you'll have many more hours to use your most essential devices. The iPhone 14, rated at 12.68Wh, could even be charged an extra ten more times—just by using an ultra-efficient portable power station with GaN technology.
Better Efficiency → Lower Temperatures → Longer Lifespan
Due to the low bandgap of silicon, it's a never-ending challenge for engineers to figure out how to keep temperatures under control. Silicon devices usually need bulky cooling components like fans and heat sinks in order to remain stable, resulting in heavy, inefficient products that run hot.
Since GaN is more efficient at transferring current, it doesn't require as many components to maintain temperature. This is why GaN chargers are able to be physically so compact and still perform well.
Energy loss causes more of a problem than just some wasted battery capacity. That energy has to go somewhere—and the by-product is heat. Low efficiency means more energy loss, which produces more heat, which causes higher temperatures – ending in more unstable components.
Temperature is one of the main factors in overall battery health. The closer that components can operate within optimal temperatures, the longer the lifespan of the device. Based on rigorous testing, Anker’s engineers have found that GaNPrime™ is able to reduce operating temperatures by as much as 30℃ (86℉).
This profound temperature change compared to silicon means a new level of durability and possibility for portable power. Long-lasting LiFePO4 batteries are now even longer lasting. The entire circuit design and electronics are rated at a lifespan previously unheard of. Power stations can work outside on hot summer days, as internal component temps stay low and stable within more compact spaces.
The PowerHouse 767 manages to cram massive power into a device that's only 67 lbs, with enhanced portability that's ready for anything, everywhere you take it. The future of portable power is better portability, more power, and greater reliability – thanks to the efficiency of GaN technology.
Better Efficiency → More Sustainable → A Greener Future
GaN's efficiency brings a third major benefit, one that goes beyond the individual user and affects the world at large. As global energy crises rise, chip shortages continue, and carbon emissions linger, the need for more efficient and sustainable power has reached its breaking point.
Fortunately, replacing silicon with GaN technology has shown remarkable promise for greener energy. In addition to a far easier and more cost-effective manufacturing process, GaN semiconductors are an obvious choice for the environment. By most idealistic estimates, GaN can deliver cleaner power with a carbon footprint that's 10× lower than silicon. Some experts believe that replacing all electronics with GaN could reduce worldwide energy consumption by 20%. Furthermore, if we were to transition from Si to GaN in every data center across the world, the total energy loss reduction would save us 100 billion kWh and 125 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2030!
Energy shifts on a grand scale like this may require major infrastructure changes, but we as consumers can make an impact as well – simply by our choice of portable power station. Based on the rate of efficiency and energy loss, a typical 2,000Wh power station uses 2.22 kWh of electricity to recharge. The Anker PowerHouse 767 with GaNPrime™ comparatively uses about 2.08 kWh to recharge. This difference of 0.14 kWh in energy saved might not sound impressive on a small scale—but there is power in numbers.
According to the Annual North American Camping Report 2021, there are an estimated 94 million active campers in the U.S. Let's entertain the notion that every one of them owns a portable power station. If they all switched to a GaNPrime™ power station of the same wattage and used it every day, then the amount of power saved would equal 4.434 terawatt-hours per year. Based on statistical data from EIA, that's enough energy to power all of California for a week. Or the state of New York for twelve days. Or Hawaii for six months.
From data centers and campgrounds, to every home on the planet: GaN technology is truly the most eco-friendly way to stay powered for a greener future.
The Future of Portable Power
Despite all the impressive advantages that GaN offers, there is still a great deal of work to be done to shift the trajectory of an industry that runs on silicon. Major tech companies will need to make concerted efforts to adapt their engineering and manufacturing processes to this new semiconductor. It's not an easy change to make, but the "old way" of doing things can't last much longer against the undeniable efficiency and durability of gallium nitride... and then perhaps we might eventually see Silicon Valley become "GaN Valley".
With the full weight of the industry behind it, think of the technological breakthroughs that could occur! Beyond LED lights and Blu-ray players, there are brighter blue skies ahead with GaN. Bulky chargers and power bricks could be a thing of the past, becoming as thin as simple power cords. Mobile phones would make a quantum leap forward in performance. CPUs might reach frequency speeds that are 20× higher.
Yet the future is now for portable power. Anker set out with a mission to make long-lasting and reliable power accessible to anyone, anywhere at any time. As more than just a consumer product, portable power with GaNPrime™ is an important step towards energy resilience, independence, and a more sustainable future. Ultra-efficient power is finally here with Anker PowerHouse 767! And the advancements of Moore's Law will surely return.