9 December 2021
Navitas opens design center in China focused on enabling GaN-based data-centers
Gallium nitride (GaN) power integrated circuit firm Navitas Semiconductor of El Segundo, CA, USA and Dublin, Ireland has announced its expansion into higher-power markets with the opening of a new Design Center dedicated to bringing next-generation GaN power ICs and associated high-efficiency, high-power-density systems to enable data centers around the world to upgrade from silicon to GaN, thereby significantly improving energy savings, reducing electricity costs and cutting CO2 emissions.
Founded in 2014, Navitas introduced what it claimed to be the first commercial GaN power integrated circuits. Its proprietary GaNFast power ICs monolithically integrate GaN power field-effect transistors (FETs) and GaN drive plus control and protection circuits in a single SMT package. Since GaN is reckoned to run up to 20x faster than silicon, GaNFast power ICs are said to deliver up to 3x faster charging or 3x more power in half the size and weight.
The new Design Center in Hangzhou, China hosts a team of power system designers with capabilities across electrical, thermal and mechanical design, software development, and complete simulation and prototyping capabilities. Data-center power customers will be supported worldwide by the new team, from concept to prototype, through to full qualification and mass production.
The Design Center will develop schematics, layouts and firmware for full-function, productizable data-center power supplies. Solutions for the highest power density and highest efficiency will bring GaN into mainstream data centers, Navitas reckons. Additionally, multiple partnerships will be created for magnetics, thermal substrates, and other materials to assist customers in optimizing their power supply designs.
Navitas estimates that an upgrade from legacy silicon to new GaN could deliver energy savings up to 40%, and save $1.9bn/year in data-center electricity costs worldwide. Data-center supplies are rated to meet tough efficiency criteria, with the extreme ‘Titanium’ grade demanding 96% efficiency at 50% load. These new benchmarks are not only enabled by GaN technology but also demanded by legislation such as the European Union’s ‘Directive 2009/125/EC, 2019 Annex’, which states that new data-center power supplies must meet the ‘Titanium’ level of efficiency from 1 January 2023.
“The Navitas Data Center team has the new technical skills of GaN power ICs plus the experience of real power supply design and qualification,” says Charles Zha, VP & general manager of Navitas China. “The first proof point is a 1.2kW ‘Titanium plus’ design that not only exceeds the highest efficiency standards for data-center power supplies but is also value-engineered to be lower cost than legacy silicon designs. After this, it’s on to 2.2kW and 3kW platforms.”
The 1.2kW design was developed in collaboration with Boco and FRD of Hangzhou, and the power supply is now under evaluation for mass production in 2022. “GaNFast power ICs are easy-to-use, digital-in, power-out building blocks that have accelerated time-to-prototype and first-time-right designs,” comments Boco’s CEO Golden Yin. “GaNFast power ICs are essential to achieving Titanium Plus efficiency, a critical milestone for next-generation data-center power supplies,” says Ray Gu, general manager of FRD’s Power Supply business unit. “This will help FRD strengthen its product portfolio and provide comprehensive solutions to enterprise customers,” he adds.
“As data and communications continue their exponential growth, it is critical for data centers to upgrade to GaNFast power ICs to reduce costs, maximize energy savings and reduce CO2 emissions,” says Navitas’ co-founder & CEO Gene Sheridan. “As a critical expansion market, we recruited ahead of our recent IPO funding, and that faith in our data-center design team is already paying dividends. By working in collaboration with data-center engineers around the world, we can accelerate adoption of GaN-based data centers and make a significant impact on energy savings, electricity costs and CO2 emissions.”
Manufacturing a GaN power IC has up to a 10x lower CO2 footprint than for a silicon chip, it is reckoned. Considering use-case efficiency, material size and weight benefits, then each GaN power IC shipped can save 4kg of CO2, the firm adds. Overall, GaN is expected to address a 2.6Gton/year reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.