It’s no secret that we live in the age of instant gratification. The word “instant” is of the essence here and applies to device charging times as well.
Accordingly, the concept of fast charging is gaining increasing prominence among electronic device users.
In fact, it has become a must-have feature in smartphones nowadays.
If you’re wondering what is fast charging, you’re in the right place.
It increases the current transmitted to the battery. Thus, it charges more rapidly compared to traditional charging.
The ultimate aims of fast charging are:
- Transfer more power in less time
- Keep device batteries functional and charged throughout the day
However, different companies follow different fast charging standards. Some are compatible with particular cables and chargers. Others use higher voltages to enable fast charging.
If this is getting a tad confusing, don’t fret. This post will tell you everything about fast charging in an easy-to-understand manner.
Let’s dive in.
1. What Is Fast Charging?
- To make sense of fast charging, we need to understand a few related terms first.
- The output of a charge is typically measured in amperage (or current) and voltage.
- Amperage is the amount of electricity flowing from the battery to the connected device.
Voltage is the strength of the electric current
Multiplying voltage and amperage reveals the exact wattage, i.e. the total amount of power.
Fast charging refers to chargers/devices that charge faster than regular charging standards. Several modern technologies out there enable fast charging speeds.
However, there is a major lack of conformity in these speeds. Numerous manufacturers claim that their product comes with fast charging technology. But, it may actually provide no more than the conventional speed.
To make the device charge faster, most manufacturers either
- Increase the amperage
- Boost the voltage
The latter is a more popular practice compared to the former.
Do you sometimes wonder why your phone is not charging fast despite using a fast charging cable? There might be a good explanation for it.
The fact is that not all chargers are fast chargers and not all devices are meant for fast charging. If you need a fast charge, your charger as well as the phone should be equipped with this function. If your charger doesn’t support fast charging, you won’t be able to fast charge your phone even if it’s connected with a fast-charging cable. Likewise, if your phone doesn’t have fast charging capabilities, it will only charge at the regular speed even when connected to a fast charger with a compatible cable.
2. How Fast Charging Works
Fast charging of a device typically happens in two stages. In the first stage, the charging rate is pushed at a rapid pace through a higher voltage. Most brands try to supply the maximum charge in the first 30 minutes. This has to do with the way lithium-ion batteries power. Typically, in these batteries, the speed of charging decreases over time.
Then comes the second stage. Once the battery has received about 80% of the charge, the fast chargers lower the voltage. This is done in a controlled manner. It helps prevent the battery from overcharging and overheating, while ensuring safety. It also improves the longevity and efficiency of both the battery and the phone.
To put it simply, in the beginning of the charge, the voltage increases to reach peak levels. The current stays constant at a high level. This results in a huge amount of power getting transferred to the device.
When the voltage reaches its peak level, the current drops down. Once the battery is fully charged, the power is transferred very slowly. It also allows a low amount of charge. This happens while the phone’s battery continues to be consumed.
The amount of power and the time taken in each stage depends on the fast charging standard (more on this coming up). A standard refers to a recognized charging process that works with a device or charger.
Different fast charging standards are capable of producing varying outputs and charge times. These have been developed by different manufacturers.
For optimal fast charging, it’s necessary to have a compatible charger. You can also use a cable that complies with the charging standards.
3. Fast Charging Standards
Here’s what you need to know about some of the most popular and widely used fast charging standards.
A. USB Power Delivery
USB Power Delivery or USB-PD is the fast charging standard by USB-IF. It can be used by any device with a USB port as long as it includes the necessary software and circuitry. USB-PD uses a data interface. It enables the communication between the charger and the phone. This determines the maximum degree to which the power can be delivered.
It boosts the basic USB charging speeds for up to 100W of output power. The available power is divided into different power ratings. These rating operate at different voltages.
- 7.5 W+ and 15W+ options are most suitable for phones
- 27 W and above are meant for higher power devices like laptops
The USB-PD standard also supports bi-directional power. This means your phone can be used to charge other peripherals.
This standard is used by the vast majority of smartphone brands today. This includes Google’s Pixel and Apple. However, many smartphone companies have developed their own fast charging standards.
B. Qualcomm’s Quick Charge
Quick Charge is Qualcomm’s propriety fast charging standard. Before USB Power Delivery, it was the default standard in the smartphone industry.
Quick Charge 5 is the latest version. It delivers charging speeds of up to 0-50% in only five minutes. It also comes equipped with new battery technology, accessories, and safety features.
This fast charging standard provides high charging speeds with 100W+ charging power. This is due to the new Dual Charge technology. Smartphones and devices can be charged up to 10 degrees Celsius cooler and up to four times faster. They charge up to 70% more efficiently than with previous solutions.
Quick Charge is an optional feature that comes with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors. Hence, it is not necessary that a phone that has a Qualcomm chip will be compatible with Quick Charge.
Some smartphone models employ in-house technologies. They refrain from using more pervasive counterparts mentioned above. Only a handful of these are proprietary though. A lot of them are just Quick Charge and Power Delivery rehashed and repacked under a new brand name. Of course, they come with some minor modifications made to the technology as well. These include:
· Samsung Adaptive Fast Charging:
This standard is used by Samsung devices, especially their Galaxy range. This standard offers a maximum power output of 18W. It automatically changes charging speeds to preserve the battery’s longevity.
· Huawei’s SuperCharge:
Devices using SuperCharge contain a smart charging chip. This chip communicates with chargers through Huawei’s proprietary Smart Charging Protocol (SCP). This protocol adjusts the charging current and voltage as needed. It provides quicker and more efficient charging while minimizing energy loss.
· MediaTek Pump Express:
MediaTek Pump Express 4.0 reduces recharge time by over half. This is applicable when compared to standard USB chargers. It is compatible with the latest USB-C cable standard, with up to 5 amps of current.
It supports the international standard of ‘USB PD 3.0 programmable power supplies.’ It enables standard USB PD 3.0 chargers to power up compatible smartphones.
It is possible for smartphones and other devices to support multiple standards. They can maintain a certain degree of compatibility with various fast charging methods.
4. Is Fast Charger Good for Battery?
Fast charging technology does not harm your phone’s lithium-ion battery. This is because it is doing more than just transferring a large amount of current into the cell to fast charge it.
Smartphones and other devices have special controllers that transmit data between each other while working. They also monitor the battery status, charge level, temperature, and load, choosing an optimal mode of operation with no damage to the battery.
That being said, heating in phones can feel like a cause for concern to users. Sometimes, your devices are charging faster than standard charging speeds. This is why your phone and charger may warm up in the process.
There is a simple way to ensure that you’re always charging safely. Use high-quality chargers and cables that comply with the necessary standards.
5. Where Does GaN-Based Charging Fit?
An extensive amount of research has been done to understand the uses of gallium nitride (or GaN). This has provided some clarity on its semiconductor properties. GaN technology has been used in building electronic components such as amplifiers and transistors.
Silicon technology has made advancements over the years. But, it has reached saturation in the area of power conversion. The failure of silicon to find new applications has allowed GaN technology to take its place.
Silicon is among the top three materials used in the production of semiconductors. GaN falls in the same category. However, GaN has abilities that enable it to surpass silicon-based electronics. This includes a wider band gap, which is the rate at which energy passes through the material.
The wider band gap enables GaN to tolerate higher temperatures. It can also endure higher voltages than silicon. This is because GaN can conduct electrons more efficiently than silicon. Chips made of GaN are smaller, faster, more efficient, and cheaper than chips made of silicon.
GaN found increasing use in the manufacture of LEDs around three decades ago. Hence, it can be said that GaN technology is not new, but its use in the fast charging arena is recent. Android Authority has declared that GaN is “a superior semiconductor to silicon.”
GaN chargers don’t require as many components as silicon chargers do. Hence, they are physically smaller. They can also conduct higher voltages over time relative to silicon.
GaN chargers are more efficient at transferring current compared to their silicon counterparts. This means less energy is lost to heat. More energy goes to the device being charged. When components pass energy to your devices efficiently, you require few of them. This is why GaN chargers are compact in size.
GaN chargers are becoming the modern-day alternative to silicon. You can now look forward to smaller, more efficient chargers and power bricks in the future.
6. The Future of Fast Charge
Fast charging technology is constantly evolving. Charging speeds have come a long way in the last few years, and is expected to continue in the future as well with more manufacturers diving into charging technologies, renewing industry standards continuously.
There have been several developments in circuit design, power density, and charging cables. This can enable smartphones to recharge in minutes rather than hours. With the increasing prominence of GaN technology, these days may be closer than we think. Fast chargers are also expected to become smaller and compact. Yet, they will be more powerful than ever before.
Wireless fast charging will also continue to grow. Manufacturers are realizing that transferring large amounts of power wirelessly can be hazardous, especially if it is done without proper thermal management. Companies are finding ways to manage the access heat produced during the charge. The days of safer charging and new modes of connection through wireless may not be far anymore.
Battery materials are also expected to improve. Companies are exploring new techniques and resources that allow higher power densities. This will help revolutionize battery life longevity and user experience. The aim is to develop battery materials that adapt to a wider range of uses and environments.
Gone are the days when users were willing to wait for hours for their device battery to go from 0-100% charge. Whether it is smartphones or laptops, fast charging has become the new standard. Hopefully, this post has helped you understand how fast charging works. You should also get an insight into the different standards associated with it. It will be interesting to look forward to new technologies like GaN. Rest assured, it is waiting in the wings to make a breakthrough.
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