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Electrical Efficiency

University of California, Santa Barbara

Intelligent Reduction of Energy through Photonic Integration for Datacenters (INTREPID)

The University of California, Santa Barbara will develop and demonstrate a technology platform that integrates efficient photonic interfaces directly into chip "packages." The simultaneous design and packaging of photonics with electronics will enable higher bandwidth network switches that are much more energy efficient. Traditional electronic switches toggle connections between wires, each wire providing a different communication channel. Having a limited number of communication channels means that electronic switches can lead to "fat" hierarchical networks, consuming energy each time data has to travel through one switch to another. By developing a platform that directly integrates efficient photonics into first-level chip packages, layers of traditional network hierarchy can be eliminated, reducing the power, latency, and cost of datacenters. Photonic interconnects integrated directly into chip packages can enable switches with a much larger port count than traditional electronic switches. These new, larger switches will connect more servers using fewer levels of required switching. The team estimates that an improvement in the network metrics (either cost or power) will enable a more than linear improvement in the overall transactional efficiency because faster networks and faster endpoint data-rates can be deployed, reducing the total number of computational and storage systems necessary to satisfy user transactions.

University of California, Santa Barbara

Current Aperture Vertical Electron Transistor Device Architectures for Efficient Power Switching

The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) will develop new vertical gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor technologies that will significantly enhance the performance and reduce the cost of high-power electronics. UCSB will markedly reduce the size of its vertical GaN semiconductor devices compared to today's commercially available, lateral GaN-on-silicon-based devices. Despite their reduced size, UCSB's vertical GaN devices will exhibit improved performance and significantly lower power losses when switching and converting power than lateral GaN devices. UCSB will also simplify fabrication processes to keep costs down.

University of Illinois, Chicago

Universal Battery Supercharger

University of Maryland

Melt Epitaxy of Carbon: A Silicon-inspired Approach to Next-Generation Electrical Wires

The University of Maryland will develop a new method called "Melt Epitaxy of Carbon" for the production of lightweight, high-capacity carbon wires from carbon nanotubes. Metallic carbon nanotubes are lightweight, high-capacity conductors that exceed the current carrying capacity of metals like copper. The current density of carbon nanotubes is nearly 1,000 times greater than at the electromigration limit of copper. On a weight basis, carbon nanotubes have an additional 6-fold advantage over copper because of their reduced density. Carbon nanotubes can reduce the weight of wires as much as 90% in weight-critical applications such as aircraft. Epitaxy refers to the deposition of a crystalline overlayer on a crystalline substrate, and it is widely used to create materials for semiconductor fabrication. In this process, the team will use a similar method to produce the carbon conductors. Although carbon nanotubes can also be synthesized using chemical vapor deposition, this new method is predicted to deliver improved yield and greater control over the structure and electrical properties of the nanotubes. This method is also more scalable than other methods of nanotube creation and at reduced costs.

University of Missouri

High quality GaN FETs through Transmutation Doping and Low Temperature Processing

University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Voltage and Frequency Power Converter Based on Electromagnetic Induction

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln will develop an innovative concept for an electromagnetic induction-based static power converter for AC to AC electrical conversions. Their method will use a new device, the magnetic flux valve, to actively control the magnetic flux of the converter. The voltages induced across the device can be controlled by varying the magnetic fluxes. By synthesizing the induced voltages appropriately, the converter can take an AC input and generate an AC output with controllable amplitude, frequency, and waveform. During this project, the team plans to prove the concept of the magnetic flux valve; prove the concept for variable-frequency and variable voltage AC-AC electrical energy conversion; and conduct a study on the scalability of the magnetic flux valve and electromagnetic power converter concepts. If successful, the technology has the potential to achieve lower cost, higher energy density, and higher efficiency than traditional energy conversion technologies. More efficient conversion technologies for high voltage and high power applications can lead to new innovations in renewable power generation and smart grid applications.

University of Southern California

System Testbed, Evaluation, and Architecture Metrics: STEAM

The University of Southern California (USC) will develop a framework and testbed for evaluating proposed photonic and optical-electronic interconnect technologies, such as those developed under the ARPA-E ENLITENED program. These new approaches will develop novel network topologies enabled by integrated photonics technologies, which use light instead of electricity to transmit information. USC's effort aims to offer an impartial assessment of these emerging datacenter concepts and architectures and their ability to reduce overall power consumption in a meaningful way. The team will focus on developing architecture specifications and models to assess the effects of photonic project components on system performance and efficiency, making it possible to quantify the potential energy reduction in datacenters. Specifically, they will simulate the impact on overall energy efficiency of dramatically different traffic, loading, and architectural configurations and then identify how individual new technologies such as optical components, optical switches, and transceivers, affect efficiency. The team expects that capabilities and facilities influenced by the project will form the basis of a national facility for evaluating new concepts for datacenter operations and the role of photonics in those systems.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Isolated Converter with Integrated Passives and Low Material Stress

CPES at Virginia Tech is developing an extremely efficient power converter that could be used in power adapters for small, light-weight laptops and other types of mobile electronic devices. Power adapters convert electrical energy into usable power for an electronic device, and they currently waste a lot of energy when they are plugged into an outlet to power up. CPES at Virginia Tech is integrating high-density capacitors, new magnetic materials, high-frequency integrated circuits, and a constant-flux transformer to create its efficient power converter. The high-density capacitors enable the power adapter to store more energy. The new magnetic materials also increase energy storage, and they can be precisely dispensed using a low-cost ink-jet printer which keeps costs down. The high-frequency integrated circuits can handle more power, and they can handle it more efficiently. And, the constant-flux transformer processes a consistent flow of electrical current, which makes the converter more efficient.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Single DC Source Based Cascaded Multilevel Inverter 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Power Supplies on a Chip

CPES at Virginia Tech is finding ways to save real estate on a computer's motherboard that could be used for other critical functions. Every computer processor today contains a voltage regulator that automatically maintains a constant level of electricity entering the device. These regulators contain bulky components and take up about 30% of a computer's motherboard. CPES at Virginia Tech is developing a voltage regulator that uses semiconductors made of gallium nitride on silicon (GaN-on-Si) and high-frequency soft magnetic material. These materials are integrated on a small, 3D chip that can handle the same amount of power as traditional voltage regulators at 1/10 the size and with improved efficiency. The small size also frees up to 90% of the motherboard space occupied by current voltage regulators.

Yale University

Regrowth and Selective Area Growth of GaN for Vertical Power Electronics

The ARPA-E model is unique in that the agency does not just provide teams funding. Throughout the lifetime of an ARPA-E award, ARPA-E Program Directors and Tech-to-Market Advisors also provide teams with expert advice through quarterly reviews and onsite visits. This hands-on approach helps ensure teams can meet ambitious milestones, target and tackle problems early on, and advance their technologies towards commercialization. Program Director Dr. Isik Kizilyalli explains the importance of this active project management approach in helping teams identify and overcome barriers. In this video, Energy Storage Systems (ESS) from the GRIDS program and Monolith Semiconductors from the SWITCHES program discuss how ARPA-E’s active project management approach helped them find solutions to technical challenges.

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