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Electrical Efficiency

Infineon Technologies Americas Corp.

Low Cost e-mode GaN HEMT Gate Driver IC Enables Revolutional Energy Savings in Variable Speed Drives for Appliance Motors

Infineon Technologies will develop a new, low-cost integrated circuit (IC) gate driver specifically for use with gallium nitride (GaN) high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) switches. The GaN HEMT switches would be used as a component for controlling variable speed electric motors in variable speed drives (VSDs). Electric motors, which account for about 40% of U.S. electricity consumption, can be made substantially more efficient by replacing constant speed motors with variable speed motors. Most VSDs today use silicon-based semiconductors, which are limited in performance compared to those based on wide-bandgap semiconductors like GaN. Infineon plans to integrate a cost-effective gate driver IC together with GaN HEMT switches and simple packaging to enable a cost reduction by a factor of two or three, simplified integration, and significant energy savings. If successful, the technology may drive rapid adoption of variable speed control in residential and light commercial 50-200W appliance motors from fans and pumps to refrigeration and air conditioning compressors.

JR2J, LLC

Laser Spike Anneal Technology for the Activation of Implanted Dopants in Gallium Nitride

Advanced doping methods are required to realize the potential of gallium nitride (GaN)-based devices for future high efficiency, high power applications. Ion implantation is a doping process used in other semiconductor materials such as Si and GaAs but has been difficult to use in GaN due to the limited ability to perform a damage recovery anneal in GaN. JR2J, LLC will develop an innovative laser spike annealing technique to activate implanted dopants in GaN. Laser spike annealing is a high-temperature (above 1300 ºC) heat treatment technique that activates the dopants in GaN and repairs damage done during the implantation process. By keeping the laser spike duration very short (0.1-100 milliseconds), the technique is hypothesized to be short enough to avoid degradation of the GaN lattice itself. There are commercially available laser spike annealing systems, typically used in Si-based processes, which should be able to be adapted to annealing GaN substrates with small modifications. If the proof of concept is achieved, this could provide a fast road to commercialization.

Kyma Technologies, Inc.

Transformational GaN Substrate Technology

Kyma will develop a cost-effective technique to grow high-quality gallium nitride (GaN) seeds into GaN crystal boules, which are used as the starting material for a number of semiconductor devices. Currently, growing boules from GaN seeds is a slow, expensive, and inconsistent process, so it yields expensive electronic devices of varying quality. Kyma will select the highest quality GaN seeds and use a proprietary hydride vapor phase epitaxy growth process to rapidly grow the seeds into boules while preserving the seed's structural quality and improving its purity.

Marquette University

Advanced Parallel Resonant 1MHz, 1MW, Three Phase AC to DC Ultra Fast EV Charger

Marquette University will develop a small, compact, lightweight, and efficient 1 MW battery charger for electric vehicles that will double the specific power and triple power density compared to the current state-of-the-art. The team aims to use MOSFET switches based on silicon carbide to ensure the device runs efficiently while handling very large amounts of power in a small package. If successful, the device could help to dramatically reduce charging times for electric vehicles to a matter of minutes - promoting faster adoption of electric vehicles with longer range, greater energy efficiency, and reduced range anxiety.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Advanced Technologies for Integrated Power Electronics

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is teaming with Georgia Institute of Technology, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania to create more efficient power circuits for energy-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) through advances in 3 related areas. First, the team is using semiconductors made of high-performing gallium nitride grown on a low-cost silicon base (GaN-on-Si). These GaN-on-Si semiconductors conduct electricity more efficiently than traditional silicon semiconductors. Second, the team is developing new magnetic materials and structures to reduce the size and increase the efficiency of an important LED power component, the inductor. This advancement is important because magnetics are the largest and most expensive part of a circuit. Finally, the team is creating an entirely new circuit design to optimize the performance of the new semiconductors and magnetic devices it is using.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Seamless Hybrid-integrated Interconnect NEtwork (SHINE)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will develop a unified optical communication technology for use in datacenter optical interconnects. Compared to existing interconnect solutions, the proposed approach exhibits high energy efficiency and large bandwidth density, as well as a low-cost packaging design. Specifically, the team aims to develop novel photonic material, device, and heterogeneously integrated interconnection technologies that are scalable across chip-, board-, and rack-interconnect hierarchy levels. The MIT design uses an optical bridge to connect silicon semiconductors to flexible ribbons that carry light waves. The optical bridge scheme employs single-mode optical waveguides with small modal areas to minimize interconnect footprint, increase bandwidth density, and lower power consumption by using active devices with small junction area and capacitance. The architecture builds all the active photonic components (such as semiconductor lasers, modulators, and detectors) on the optical bridge platform to achieve low energy-per-bit connections. After developing the new photonic packaging technologies, and interconnection architectures, the team's final task will be to fabricate and test a prototype interconnect platform to validate the system models and demonstrate high bandwidth, low power, low bit-error-rate data transmission using the platform.

Michigan State University

Diamond Diode and Transistor Devices

Michigan State University (MSU) will develop high-voltage 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. It can also withstand much higher temperatures with higher performance levels than silicon, which is used in the majority of today's semiconductors. However, current techniques for growing doped diamond and depositing it on electronic devices are difficult and expensive. MSU is overcoming these challenges by using an innovative, low-cost, lattice-etching method on doped diamond surfaces, which will facilitate improved conductivity in diamond semiconductor devices.

MicroLink Devices

High-Power Vertical-Junction Field-Effect Transistors Fabricated on Low-Dislocation-Density GaN by Epitaxial Lift-Off

MicroLink Devices will engineer affordable, high-performance transistors for power conversion. Currently, high-performance power transistors are prohibitively expensive because they are grown on expensive gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor wafers. In conventional manufacturing processes, this expensive wafer is permanently attached to the transistor, so the wafer can only be used once. MicroLink Devices will develop an innovative method to remove the transistor structure from the wafer without damaging any components, enabling wafer reuse and significantly reducing costs.

Monolith Semiconductor, Inc.

Advanced Manufacturing and Performance Enhancements for Reduced Cost Silicon Carbide MOSFETS

Monolith Semiconductor will utilize advanced device designs and existing low-cost, high-volume manufacturing processes to create high-performance silicon carbide (SiC) devices for power conversion. SiC devices provide much better performance and efficiency than their silicon counterparts, which are used in the majority of today's semiconductors. However, SiC devices cost significantly more. Monolith will develop a high-volume SiC production process that utilizes existing silicon manufacturing facilities to help drive down the cost of SiC devices.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Negating Energy Losses in Organic Photovoltaics Using Photonic Structures

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the University of Colorado (CU) are developing a way to enhance plastic solar cells to capture a larger part of the solar spectrum. Conventional plastic solar cells can be inexpensive to fabricate but do not efficiently convert light into electricity. NREL is designing novel device architecture for plastic solar cells that would enhance the utilization of parts of the solar spectrum for a wide array of plastic solar cell types. To develop these plastic solar cells, NREL and CU will leverage computational modeling and advanced facilities specializing in processing plastic PVs. NREL's plastic solar cell devices have the potential to exceed the power conversion efficiencies of traditional plastic solar cells by up to threefold.

Northeastern University

A Universal Converter for DC, Single-phase AC, and Multi-phase AC Systems

Northeastern University will develop a new class of universal power converters that use the fast switching and high breakdown voltage properties of silicon carbide (SiC) switches to significantly reduce system weight, volume, cost, power loss, and failure rates. Northeastern's proposed 10 kW SiC based high-frequency converter topology minimizes the size of passive components that are used for power transfer, and replaces electrolytic capacitors with short lifetimes with film capacitors. The proposed universal converter can be used for transferring power from any type of source to any type of load. It can be used when the instantaneous values of input and output power do not match even without having large passive components, or increasing the number of passive components. If successful, the proposed converter and innovative control strategy has the potential to create a new paradigm in power electronics that could influence numerous applications, such as electric vehicles, wind energy systems, photovoltaic systems, industrial motor drives, residential variable frequency drive systems, and nanogrid applications.

Opcondys, Inc.

A Bidirectional, Transformerless Converter Topology for Grid-Tied Energy Storage Systems 

Opcondys will develop a high-voltage power converter design for energy storage systems connected directly to the power grid. Opcondys' converter design will use a modified switched multiplier topology that will allow connection to utility transmission lines without intervening step-up transformers. It uses a photonic, wide bandgap power switching device called the Optical Transconductance Varistor. This is a fast, high-voltage, bidirectional device which reduces the number of circuit elements required for charging and discharging the storage element. By operating at 100 kHz it is possible to increase efficiency to 99% compared to 95-98% efficiency of traditional converters. The system also reduces the size of the passive elements by 50% and, because of the optical control, mitigates electromagnetic interference issues. The elimination of step-up transformers further reduces system size, and can enable a lower cost than existing systems. If successful, project developments could open the door to increased integration of grid-level energy storage.

Princeton Optronics

Ultra-High Speed VCSELs for Optical Communication

Princeton Optronics will develop a new device architecture for optical interconnect links, which communicate using optical fibers that carry light. The maximum speed and power consumption requirement of data communication lasers have not changed significantly over the last decade, and state-of-the-art commercial technology delivers only 30 Gigabits per second (Gb/s). Increasing this speed has been difficult because the current devices are limited by resistance and capacitance constraints. Princeton Optronics will develop a novel device architecture to improve the data transfer and reduce the power consumption per bit by a factor of 10. They will use their expertise in vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) to design and build unique quantum wells - and increase the speed and lower the power consumption. The team aims to demonstrate speeds greater than 50 Gb/s, and perhaps 250 Gb/s devices in the future.

Princeton University

Fast Electrochemical Acoustic Signal Interrogation for Battery Lifetime Extrapolation

Princeton University is developing a non-invasive, low-cost, ultrasonic diagnostic system to determine battery state-of-health and state-of-charge, and to monitor internal battery defects. This system links the propagation of sound waves through a battery to the material properties of components within the battery. As a battery is cycled, the density and mechanical properties of its electrodes change; as the battery ages, it experiences progressive formation and degradation of critical surface layers, mechanical degradation of electrodes, and consumption of electrolyte. All of these phenomena affect how the sound waves pass through the battery. There are very few sensing techniques available that can be used during battery production and operation which can quickly identify changes or faults within the battery as they occur. As an ARPA-E IDEAS project, this early stage research project will provide proof of concept for the sensing technique and build a database of acoustic signatures for different battery chemistries, form factors, and use conditions. If successful, this ultrasonic diagnostic system will improve battery quality, safety, and performance of electric vehicle and grid energy storage systems via two avenues: (1) more thorough and efficient cell screening during production, and (2) physically relevant information for more informed battery management strategies.

Qromis, Inc.

Reliable and Self-Clamped GaN Switch: 1.5 kV Lateral JFET scalable to 100A

Qromis will develop a new type of gallium nitride (GaN) transistor, called a lateral junction field effect transistor (LJFET) and investigate its reliability compared to other types of transistors, such as SiC junction field effect transistors (JFETs) and GaN-based high electron mobility transistors (HEMTs). Qromis' innovative LJFET design distributes and places the peak electric field away from the surface, eliminating a key point of failure that has plagued GaN HEMT devices and prevented them from achieving widespread use. If successful, this project will deliver a 1.5kV, 10A GaN LJET devices that would be scalable to 100A. The devices will be fabricated on thick, uniform GaN layers deposited on a coefficient of thermal expansion matched 8-inch QST® engineered platform that is compatible with current silicon processing equipment - reducing the cost of the devices. The uniform GaN layers on the large area platform will increase the yield of the devices further decreasing the cost. Finally, the thick GaN will enable the higher voltage standoff and improve the thermal management of the devices.

Sandia National Laboratory

High Voltage Re-grown GaN P-N Diodes Enabled by Defect and Doping Control

Vertical transistors based on bulk gallium nitride (GaN) have emerged as promising candidates for future high efficiency, high power applications. However, they have been plagued by poor electrical performance attributed to the existing selective doping processes. Sandia National Laboratories will develop patterned epitaxial regrowth of GaN as a selective area doping processes to fabricate diodes with electronic performance equivalent to as-grown state-of-the-art GaN diodes. The team's research will provide a better understanding of which particular defects resulting from impurities and etch damage during the epitaxial regrowth process limit device performance, how those defects specifically impact the junction electronic properties, and ultimately how to control and mitigate the defects. The improved mechanistic understanding developed under the project will help the team design specific approaches to controlling impurity contamination and defect incorporation at regrowth interfaces and include development of in-chamber cleans and regrowth initiation processes to recover a high-quality epitaxial surfaces immediately prior to crystal regrowth.

Sandia National Laboratory

MVDC/HVDC Power Conversion with Optically-Controlled GaN Switches

Sandia National Laboratories will develop a new type of switch, a 100kV optically controlled switch (often called photoconductive semiconductor switch or PCSS), based on the WBG semiconductors GaN and AlGaN. The capabilities of the PCSS will be demonstrated in high-voltage circuits for medium and high voltage direct current (MVDC/HVDC) power conversion for grid applications. Photoconductivity is the measure of a material's response to the energy inherent in light radiation. The electrical conductivity of a photoconductive material increases when it absorbs light. The team will first measure the photoconductive properties of GaN and AlGaN in order to assess if they operate similarly to gallium arsenide, a conventional semiconductor material used for PCSS, demonstrating sub-bandgap optical triggering and low-field, high-gain avalanche providing many times as many carriers by the electric field as created by the optical trigger. These two effects provide a tremendous reduction in the optical trigger energy required to activate the switch. The team will then design and fabricate GaN and AlGaN-based photoconductive semiconductor switches. The team predicts that WBG PCSS will outperform their predecessors with higher switch efficiency, the ability to switch at higher voltages, and will turn-off and recover faster, allowing for a higher frequency of switching. Ultimately, this will enable high-voltage switch assemblies (50-500kV) that can be triggered from a single, small driver (e.g. semiconductor laser). These modules will be substantially smaller (~10x) and simpler than existing modules used in grid-connected power electronics, allowing the realization of inexpensive and efficient switch modules that can be used in DC to AC power conversion systems on the grid at distribution and transmission scales.

SixPoint Materials, Inc.

GaN Homoepitaxial Wafers by Vapor Phase Epitaxy on Low-Cost, High-Quality Ammonothermal GaN Substrates

SixPoint Materials will create low-cost, high-quality vertical gallium nitride (GaN) substrates for use in high-power electronic devices. In its two-phase project, SixPoint Materials will first focus on developing a high-quality GaN substrate and then on expanding the substrate's size. Substrates are thin wafers of semiconducting material used to power devices like transistors and integrated circuits. SixPoint Materials will use a two-phase production approach that employs both hydride vapor phase epitaxy technology and ammonothermal growth techniques to create its high-quality, low-cost GaN substrates.

Soraa, Inc.

Large-Area, Low-Cost Bulk GaN Substrates for Power Electronics

Soraa will develop a cost-effective technique to manufacture high-quality, high-performance gallium nitride (GaN) crystal substrates that have fewer defects by several orders of magnitude than conventional GaN substrates and cost about 10 times less. Substrates are thin wafers of semiconducting material needed to power devices like transistors and integrated circuits. Most GaN-based electronics today suffer from very high defect levels and, in turn, reduced performance. In addition to reducing defects, Soraa will also develop methods capable of producing large-area GaN substrates--3 to 4 times larger in diameter than conventional GaN substrates--that can handle high-power switching applications.

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC

Integrated Power Chip Converter for Solid-State Lighting

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging is developing cost-effective power drivers for energy-efficient LED lights that fit on a compact chip. These power drivers are important because they transmit power throughout the LED device. Traditional LED driver components waste energy and don't last as long as the LED itself. They are also large and bulky, so they must be assembled onto a circuit board separately which increases the overall manufacturing cost of the LED light. Teledyne is shrinking the size and improving the efficiency of its LED driver components by using thin layers of an iron magnetic alloy and new gallium nitride on silicon devices. Smaller, more efficient components will enable the drivers to be integrated on a single chip, reducing costs. The new semiconductors in Teledyne's drivers can also handle higher levels of power and last longer without sacrificing efficiency. Initial applications for Teledyne's LED power drivers include refrigerated grocery display cases and retail lighting.

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