Present on most screens and in led lamps, is a material that, although it is not as well known as the silicon, has taken the lead in many of the places where it once reigned supreme: gallium. From antennas to battery charging, passing through other energy conversion systems known as “power electronics”, this by-product of the extraction of aluminum from rocks has gained great importance.

According to The Wall Street Journal, gallium enables a surprising range of new technologies, such as faster cell phone charging, electric vehicles lighter and more energy-efficient data centers that run the services and applications we use.

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Gallium melts easily due to its low melting point. Image: e_rik – Shutterstock

Gallium has a melting point so low that it turns to a silvery goo when held in your hand. By itself it may not be of much use, but combined with nitrogen to make gallium nitride (GaN) it becomes a hard crystal with valuable properties. 

Gallium Nitride Allows Simultaneous Charging of Cell Phones and Other Gadgets

It appears in laser sensors used in many autonomous cars, antennas that enable today's fast Wi-Fi and cell phone networks and, increasingly, essential electronics to make the collection of renewable energy more efficient.

USB-C chargers with gallium nitride in its composition are charging cell phones faster and more efficiently. Image: ninefotostudio — Shutterstock

Today, it is possible to buy small USB-C chargers, with gallium nitride in their composition, with enough power to power a laptop, a phone and a tablet simultaneously.

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Semiconductor touted as the new revolution in power electronics

This semiconductor is being touted as the biggest revolution in power electronics since the advent of the MOSFET (acronym for Metal Oxide Semiconductor Field Effect Transistor, or, loosely translated: metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistor). 

This is due to its characteristics of low switching losses, which allows to considerably increase the switching frequency of the converters. This increase in switching frequency makes it possible to reduce the volume and weight of electronic converters.

Power electronics that convert one voltage level into another is also critical to many aspects of electric vehicles. “They're smaller, lighter, more efficient and give off less heat, so they can travel farther on a charge,” says Jim Witham, chief executive of chip maker GaN Systems. 

“These properties are also great for extracting significantly more electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar panels,” he adds. 

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