Utility-Scale Silicon Carbide Semiconductor

GeneSiC Semiconductor
Silicon Carbide Anode Switched Thyristor for Medium-Voltage Power Conversion
Picture of GeneSiC semiconductor
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,530,949
Location: 
Dulles, VA
Project Term: 
09/01/2010 to 02/28/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
All electric devices are built to operate with a certain type and amount of electrical energy, but this is often not the same type or amount of electrical energy that comes out of the outlet in your wall. Power converters modify electrical energy from the outlet to a usable current, voltage, and frequency for an electronic device. Power stations also use power converters on a larger scale to modify electrical energy so it can be efficiently transmitted. Today's power converters are inefficient because they are based on decades-old technologies and rely on expensive, bulky, and failure-prone components. Within the next 20 years, 80% of the electricity used in the U.S. will flow through these devices, so there is a critical need to improve their efficiency.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
GeneSiC is developing an advanced silicon-carbide (SiC)-based semiconductor called an anode-switched thyristor. This low-cost, compact SiC semiconductor conducts higher levels of electrical energy with better precision than traditional silicon semiconductors. This efficiency will enable a dramatic reduction in the size, weight, and volume of the power converters and the electronic devices they are used in. GeneSiC is developing its SiC-based semiconductor for utility-scale power converters. Traditional silicon semiconductors can't process the high voltages that utility-scale power distribution requires, and they must be stacked in complicated circuits that require bulky insulation and cooling hardware. GeneSiC's semiconductors are well suited for high-power applications like large-scale renewable wind and solar energy installations.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, GeneSiC would enable integration of large-scale wind and solar power plants into the smart grid, the advanced electrical infrastructure that will replace today's outdated electrical grid.
Security: 
This project could contribute to a smarter, more advanced, and more reliable power grid.
Environment: 
This project could help increase the use of renewable energy sources and in turn reduce the harmful emissions created by traditional coal-fired power plants.
Economy: 
Projects like this could help establish U.S. businesses as technical leaders in the electronics industry and bring lower power bills to consumers.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Timothy Heidel
Project Contact: 
Dr. Ranbir Singh
Partners
Dow Corning Corporation