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Electrical Efficiency

Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology

In today's increasingly electrified world, power conversion--the process of converting electricity between different currents, voltage levels, and frequencies--forms a vital link between the electronic devices we use every day and the sources of power required to run them. The projects that make up ARPA-E's ADEPT program, short for "Agile Delivery of Electrical Power Technology," are paving the way for more energy efficient power conversion and advancing the basic building blocks of power conversion: circuits, transistors, inductors, transformers, and capacitors.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science

The IDEAS program - short for Innovative Development in Energy-Related Applied Science - provides a continuing opportunity for the rapid support of early-stage applied research to explore pioneering new concepts with the potential for transformational and disruptive changes in energy technology. IDEAS awards, which are restricted to maximums of one year in duration and $500,000 in funding, are intended to be flexible and may take the form of analyses or exploratory research that provides the agency with information useful for the subsequent development of focused technology programs. IDEAS awards may also support proof-of-concept research to develop a unique technology concept, either in an area not currently supported by the agency or as a potential enhancement to an ongoing focused technology program. This program identifies potentially disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies that challenge the status quo and represent a leap beyond today's technology. That said, an innovative concept alone is not enough. IDEAS projects must also represent a fundamentally new paradigm in energy technology and have the potential to significantly impact ARPA-E's mission areas.

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2009, ARPA-E issued an open call for the most revolutionary energy technologies to form the agency's inaugural program. The first open solicitation was open to ideas from all energy areas and focused on funding projects already equipped with strong research and development plans for their potentially high-impact technologies. The projects chosen received a level of financial support that could accelerate technical progress and catalyze additional investment from the private sector. After only 2 months, ARPA-E's investment in these projects catalyzed an additional $33 million in investments. In response to ARPA-E's first open solicitation, more than 3,700 concept papers flooded into the new agency, which were thoroughly reviewed by a team of 500 scientists and engineers in just 6 months. In the end, 36 projects were selected as ARPA-E's first award recipients, receiving $176 million in federal funding.
 For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2012, ARPA-E issued its second open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 4,000 concept papers for OPEN 2012, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 66 projects for its OPEN 2012 program, awarding them a total of $130 million in federal funding. OPEN 2012 projects cut across 11 technology areas: advanced fuels, advanced vehicle design and materials, building efficiency, carbon capture, grid modernization, renewable power, stationary power generation, water, as well as stationary, thermal, and transportation energy storage.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Open Funding Solicitation

In 2015, ARPA-E issued its third open funding opportunity designed to catalyze transformational breakthroughs across the entire spectrum of energy technologies. ARPA-E received more than 2,000 concept papers for OPEN 2015, which hundreds of scientists and engineers thoroughly reviewed over the course of several months. In the end, ARPA-E selected 41 projects for its OPEN 2015 program, awarding them a total of $125 million in federal funding. OPEN 2015 projects cut across ten technology areas: building efficiency, industrial processes and waste heat, data management and communication, wind, solar, tidal and distributed generation, grid scale storage, power electronics, power grid system performance, vehicle efficiency, storage for electric vehicles, and alternative fuels and bio-energy.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.

Strategies for Wide Bandgap, Inexpensive Transistors for Controlling High-Efficiency Systems

The projects in ARPA-E's SWITCHES program, which is short for "Strategies for Wide-Bandgap, Inexpensive Transistors for Controlling High-Efficiency Systems," are focused on developing next-generation power switching devices that could dramatically improve energy efficiency in a wide range of applications, including new lighting technologies, computer power supplies, industrial motor drives, and automobiles. SWITCHES projects aim to find innovative new wide-bandgap semiconductor materials, device architectures, and device fabrication processes that will enable increased switching frequency, enhanced temperature control, and reduced power losses, at substantially lower cost relative to today's solutions. More specifically, SWITCHES projects are advancing bulk gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductor devices, the manufacture of silicon carbide (SiC) devices using a foundry model, and the design of synthetic diamond-based transistors. A number of SWITCHES projects are small businesses being funded through ARPA-E's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.
For a detailed technical overview about this program, please click here.  

Adroit Materials Inc

Selective Area Doping for Nitride Power Devices

Adroit Materials will develop a gallium nitride (GaN) selective area doping process to enable high-performance, reliable GaN-based, high-power switches which are promising candidates for future high efficiency, high power electronic applications.. Specifically, doping capabilities that allow for the creation of localized doped regions must be developed for GaN in order to reach its full potential as a power electronics semiconductor. Adroit's process will focus on implantation of magnesium ions and an innovative high temperature, high pressure activation anneal, or heat treatment, process to remove implantation damage and control performance-reducing defects. By developing an in-depth understanding of the ion implantation doping process, the team will be able to demonstrate usable and reliable planar and embedded p-n junctions, the principal building block of modern electronic components like transistors.

Arizona State University

Diamond Power Transistors Enabled by Phosphorus Doped Diamond

Arizona State University (ASU) will develop a process to produce low-cost, vertical, diamond semiconductor devices for use in high-power electronics. Diamond is an excellent conductor of electricity when boron or phosphorus is added--or doped--into its crystal structures. In fact, diamond can withstand much higher temperatures with higher performance levels than silicon, which is used in the majority of today's semiconductor devices. However, growing uniformly doped diamond crystals is difficult and expensive. ASU's innovative diamond-growing process could create greater doping uniformity, helping to significantly lower the cost of diamond semiconductor devices.

Arizona State University

Effective Selective Area Doping for GaN Vertical Power Transistors Enabled by Innovative Materials Engineering

Arizona State University (ASU) proposes a comprehensive project to advance fundamental knowledge in the selective area doping of GaN using selective regrowth of gallium nitride (GaN) materials. This will lead to the development of high-performance GaN vertical power transistors. The ASU team aims to develop a better mechanistic understanding of these fundamental materials issues, by focusing on three broad areas. First, they will use powerful characterization methods to study fundamental materials properties such as defects, surface states, and investigate possible materials degradation mechanisms. Next, they will develop innovative epitaxial growth and fabrication processes such as Atomic Layer Etching and novel surface passivations, to tackle the materials engineering challenges related to selective area doping for GaN p-n junctions. Finally, they will apply their research to demonstrate randomly placed, reliable, contactable p-n junctions for GaN vertical power devices. If successful, this project will provide a path towards high efficiency, high power, small form factor, and high thermal performance GaN vertical power devices.

Arkansas Power Electronics International, Inc.

Low-Cost, Highly Integrated, Silicon Carbide Multi-Chip Power Modules for Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles

Currently, charging the battery of an electric vehicle (EV) is a time-consuming process because chargers can only draw about as much power from the grid as a hair dryer. APEI is developing an EV charger that can draw as much power as a clothes dryer, which would drastically speed up charging time. APEI's charger uses silicon carbide (SiC)-based power transistors. These transistors control the electrical energy flowing through the charger's circuits more effectively and efficiently than traditional transistors made of straight silicon. The SiC-based transistors also require less cooling, enabling APEI to create EV chargers that are 10 times smaller than existing chargers.

Avogy, Inc.

Vertical GaN Transistors on Bulk GaN Substrates

Avogy will develop a vertical transistor with a gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor that is 30 times smaller than conventional silicon transistors but can conduct significantly more electricity. Avogy's GaN transistor will function effectively in high-power electronics because it can withstand higher electric fields and operate at higher temperatures than comparable silicon transistors. Avogy's vertical device architecture can also enable higher current devices. With such a small and efficient device, Avogy projects it will achieve functional cost parity with conventional silicon transistors within three years, while offering game-changing performance improvements.

Ayar Labs, Inc.

LytBit: An In-Rack Optical Communications System

Ayar Labs will develop new intra-rack configurations using silicon-based photonic (optical) transceivers, optical devices that transmit and receive information. The team will additionally develop methods to package their photonic transceiver with an electronic processor chip. Marrying these two components will reduce the size and cost of the chip system. Integrated packaging also moves the photonics closer to the chip, which increases energy efficiency by reducing the amount of "hops" between components. If successful, the project will prove that chip packages incorporating both optics and processors, or optics and switches, are possible. This will finally allow optics to penetrate deep into an electrical system and relieve chip interconnect bottlenecks, enabling system architecture improvements to achieve nearly double the energy efficiency with a structure more optimized for future data-use cases such as "big data" analytics and machine learning.

Case Western Reserve University

High-Power Titanate Capacitors for Power Electronics

There is a constant demand for better performing, more compact, lighter-weight, and lower-cost electronic devices. Unfortunately, the materials traditionally used to make components for electronic devices have reached their limits. Case Western Reserve University is developing capacitors made of new materials that could be used to produce the next generation of compact and efficient high-powered consumer electronics and electronic vehicles. A capacitor is an important component of an electronic device. It stores an electric charge and then discharges it into an electrical circuit in the device. Case Western is creating its capacitors from titanium, an abundant material extracted from ore which can be found in the U.S. Case Western's capacitors store electric charges on the surfaces of films, which are grown on a titanium alloy electrode that is formed as a spinal column with attached branches. The new material and spine design make the capacitor smaller and lighter than traditional capacitors, and they enable the component to store 300% more energy than capacitors of the same weight made of tantalum, the current industry standard. Case Western's titanium-alloy capacitors also spontaneously self-repair, which prolongs their life.

Columbia University

Can Silicon Photonics Offer a Path to Low Power Computing After All?

Columbia University will develop a new platform for generating multiple simultaneous optical channels (wavelengths) with low power dissipation, thereby enabling optical interconnects for low power computing. Optical interconnect links communicate using optical fibers that carry light. Wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) is a technology that combines a number of optical carrier signals on a single optical fiber by using different wavelengths. This technique enables bidirectional communications over strands of fiber, dramatically increasing capacity. Low-power lasers generate the wavelengths used in a WDM system, but it is important to stabilize the wavelength for each channel to allow for precise separation and filtering. The importance of stabilization increases when the number and density of wavelength channels increases. Energy use also increases because each of the laser sources must be individually stabilized. In contrast, the Columbia team proposes using a single high-powered stabilized laser to generate greater than 50 wavelength sources with high efficiency using an on-chip comb. This approach can improve laser energy efficiency from 0.01% to 10%.

Columbia University

PINE: Photonic Integrated Networked Energy efficient Datacenters

Columbia University will develop a new datacenter architecture co-designed with state-of-the-art silicon photonic technologies to reduce system-wide energy consumption. The team's approach will improve data movement between processor/memory and will optimize resource allocation throughout the network to minimize idle times and wasted energy. Data transfer in datacenters occurs over a series of interconnects that link different server racks of the datacenter together. Networks in modern mega-scale datacenters are becoming increasingly complicated. One by-product of this complexity is that on average a large number of these interconnections are idle due to application specific resource bottlenecks, effectively reducing the energy efficiency of the datacenter. The Columbia team will develop a solution that allows for dynamic resource re-allocation using unified photonic interconnects and a network fabric architecture that untangles computing and memory resources and allows bandwidth to be steered to appropriate areas of the network. The design addresses the stresses placed on systems by real-time communication-intensive applications. By precisely steering bandwidth and workload, idling is reduced and only the required amount of computation power, memory, capacity, and interconnectivity bandwidth are made available over the needed time period

Columbia University

Vertical GaN Power Transistors Using Controlled Spalling for Substrate Heterogeneity

Columbia University will create high-performance, low-cost, vertical gallium nitride (GaN) devices using a technique called spalling, which involves exfoliating a working circuit and transferring it to another material. Columbia and its project partners will spall and bond entire transistors from high-performance GaN wafers to lower cost silicon substrates. Substrates are thin wafers of semiconducting material needed to power devices like transistors and integrated circuits. GaN substrates operate much more efficiently than silicon substrates, particularly at high voltages, but the high cost of GaN is a barrier to its widespread use. The spalling technique developed by Columbia will allow GaN substrates to be reused, lowering their manufacturing cost.

Cornell University

PolarJFET - A Novel Vertical GaN Power Transistor Concept

Cornell University will develop an innovative, high-efficiency, gallium nitride (GaN) power switch. Cornell's design is significantly smaller and operates at much higher performance levels than conventional silicon power switches, making it ideal for use in a variety of power electronics applications. Cornell will also reuse expensive GaN materials and utilize conventional low-cost production methods to keep costs down.

Cree Fayetteville, Inc.

Smart, Compact, Efficient 500kW DC Fast Charger

Cree Fayetteville (operating as Wolfspeed, A Cree Company) will team with Ford Motor Company and the University of Michigan-Dearborn to build a power converter for DC fast chargers for electric vehicles using a solid-state transformer based on silicon carbide. The team will construct a single-phase 500 kW building block for a DC fast charger that is at least four times the power density of todays installed units. This device would offer significant improvements in efficiency (greater than 60% less power losses), size/weight (greater than 75% smaller size, 85% less weight), and cost (40% lower materials costs) over the state-of-the-art. Using this system, an electric vehicle (100 kWh) will deliver long driving range with 6 mins of recharge. The compact size also reduces the footprint and structural costs in high-cost real estate in areas with high-population. The teaming of an end user (Ford) directly with the disruptive technology provider (Cree Fayetteville) may accelerate the deployment of fast charge capability for electric vehicles.

Cree, Inc.

15 kV SiC IGBT Power Modules for Grid-Scale Power Conversion

Cree is developing silicon carbide (SiC) power transistors that are 50% more energy efficient than traditional transistors. Transistors act like a switch, controlling the electrical energy that flows through an electrical circuit. Most power transistors today use silicon semiconductors to conduct electricity. However, transistors with SiC semiconductors operate at much higher temperatures, as well as higher voltage and power levels than their silicon counterparts. SiC-based transistors are also smaller and require less cooling than those made with traditional silicon power technology. Cree's SiC transistors will enable electrical circuits to handle higher power levels more efficiently, and they will result in much smaller and lighter electrical devices and power converters. Cree, an established leader in SiC technology, has already released a commercially available SiC transistor that can operate at up to 1,200 volts. The company has also demonstrated a utility-scale SiC transistor that operates at up to 15,000 volts.

CUNY Energy Institute


City University of New York (CUNY) Energy Institute is developing less expensive, more efficient, smaller, and longer-lasting power converters for energy-efficient LED lights. LEDs produce light more efficiently than incandescent lights and last significantly longer than compact fluorescent bulbs, but they require more sophisticated power converter technology, which increases their cost. LEDs need more sophisticated converters because they require a different type of power (low-voltage direct current, or DC) than what's generally supplied by power outlets. CUNY Energy Institute is developing sophisticated power converters for LEDs that contain capacitors made from new, nanoscale materials. Capacitors are electrical components that are used to store energy. CUNY Energy Institute's unique capacitors are configured with advanced power circuits to more efficiently control and convert power to the LED lighting source. They also eliminate the need for large magnetic components, instead relying on networks of capacitors that can be easily printed on plastic substrate. CUNY Energy Institute's prototype LED power converter already meets DOE's 2020 projections for the energy efficiency of LED power converters.


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