The role of GaN in home healthcare market

Article By : Andrew Bryars

As additional features are added to the latest home health-care devices, there is an increasing requirement for more power to be delivered by the power supply.

Nowadays, medical care and monitoring are increasingly being provided to us outside of traditional settings like hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices. This lessens the strain on clinical spaces brought on by an increase in the number of procedures that are now available, as well as an aging world population that has resulted in an increase in the number of elderly individuals needing medical care.

Patients’ tension and anxiety are reduced by the more relaxed treatment environment provided by home healthcare. Additionally, new technology is enabling cosmetic applications for use at home.

Due to a shortage of beds and a need to keep Covid patients as isolated from the larger community as possible, home healthcare has seen a major increase during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This innovation came on top of an industry that was already growing as more compact technology and improved connectivity made remote monitoring by medical teams possible. According to McKinsey & Company, up to $265 million in services currently provided in on-site medical facilities could be transferred to a home environment by 2025.

This market is considerable and expanding, with home monitoring, diagnostic, and treatment equipment accounting for more than half of market value.

Powering home healthcare equipment

As additional features are added to the latest home health-care devices, there is an increasing requirement for more power to be delivered by the power supply. Some newer products are already at the higher end of the power available from external supplies.

Mounting the power supply externally has several advantages. The primary benefit is that the safety isolation, which is critical for patient-connected devices, is not a concern for the equipment manufacturer, as they source a pre-approved unit from a power supply specialist.

To maintain portability and convenience, designers are being challenged to deliver the higher power levels in units that are not significantly bigger than their lower-power predecessors. At the heart of this challenge is power density and thermal management, as removing waste heat requires devices such as heatsinks that add to size, weight, and cost.

As power designers will know, the way to reduce waste heat is by optimizing efficiency in the operation of a power supply. However, achieving the efficiencies required may not be possible with silicon-based semiconductors.

Wide-bandgap technology

The requirement to deliver higher power levels in compact solutions is not unique to home healthcare. Designers of electric vehicles and renewable power solutions (among others) face similar challenges and are increasingly turning to so-called wide-bandgap (WBG) technology to overcome the limitations of silicon.

The bandgap refers to the energy difference between the top of the valence band and the bottom of the conduction band. In devices that are composed of silicon carbide or gallium nitride, this bandgap is significantly greater, allowing the power devices to operate at higher voltages, temperatures, and frequencies.

In GaN devices, the breakdown voltage is about 30× that of Si, allowing for higher doping levels that lower the on-resistance between drain and source (RDS(on)), thereby reducing conduction losses and the associated waste-heat generation.

GaN offers the lowest on-resistance for a given breakdown voltage of any material currently in use.

GaN offers the lowest on-resistance for a given breakdown voltage of any material currently in use.

 

This is a contributed article submitted by Andrew Bryars, product manager at XP Power.

You can check out the complete article on the October 2022 edition of the Power Electronics News eBook.

 

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