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MOSFET-based Power Converters

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech)

High Power Density 10-kV SiC-MOSFET-based Modular, Scalable Power Converters for Medium Voltage Applications

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,328,404
Location: 
Blacksburg, VA
Project Term: 
02/26/2018 to 02/25/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Electricity generation currently accounts for ~40% of primary energy consumption in the U.S. and continues to be the fastest growing form of end-use energy. Power electronics condition, control, and convert electrical power in order to provide optimal conditions for transmission, distribution, and load-side consumption. Most of today's power electronics have limitations to their performance, temperature resilience, and size due to the circuit topology and semiconductor power devices used. Emerging semiconductor devices such as those based on wide-bandgap materials -- along with transformative advances in circuit design and system architecture -- present opportunities to dramatically improve power converter performance while reducing size and weight. Development of advanced power electronics with unprecedented functionality, efficiency, reliability, and form factor will help provide the U.S. a critical technological advantage in an increasingly electrified world economy.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and its project team will develop high power, high voltage AC-to-DC and DC-to-DC modular power converters with a circuit configuration optimized for silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors. In medium voltage and high voltage applications, multilevel modular converters are the favored architecture that overcomes the limitations of Si. Such architecture requires high frequency galvanic isolation to attain higher operating voltages. This project seeks to develop modular power converters optimized for SiC devices without any galvanic isolation, by harnessing two unique circuit operating modes of this power converter, transforming its intrinsic operation into one that favors high switching frequency. The team will pursue three primary applications for their proposed 2 MW, high-efficiency (99%) power converter: 1) electric motor drives, 2) power inverters for grid-scale use, and 3) a DC-to-DC converters for microgrid applications. If successful, the project's optimized circuit designs could open the door for more SiC-based, high power, medium-voltage converters.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, CIRCUITS projects will enable further development of a new class of power converters suitable for a broad range of applications including motor drives for heavy equipment and consumer appliances, electric vehicle battery charging, high-performance computer data centers, grid applications for stability and resilience, and emerging electric propulsion systems.

Security: 

More robust power electronics that withstand higher operating temperatures, have increased durability, a smaller form factor, and higher efficiency will significantly improve the reliability and security of a resilient electrical grid.

Environment: 

Low cost and highly efficient power electronics could lead to more affordable electric and hybrid-electric transportation, greater integration of renewable power sources, and higher efficiency electric motors for use in heavy industries and consumer applications.

Economy: 

Electricity is the fastest growing form of end-use energy in the United States. High performance, low cost power electronics would enable significant efficiency gains across the economy, reducing energy costs for businesses and families.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Isik Kizilyalli
Project Contact: 
Dr. Rolando Burgos
Partners
ABB, Inc.
Cree Fayetteville, Inc.
Release Date: 
8/23/2017