ARPA-E Announces Funding Opportunity to Increase Performance of Power Converters

January 18, 2017

ARPA-E has announced up to $30 million in funding for a new program to accelerate the development and deployment of innovative electric power converters that would save energy and give the United States a critical technological advantage in an increasingly electrified economy.

ARPA-E’s Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors (CIRCUITS) program seeks to develop a new class of efficient, lightweight, and reliable power converters based on wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technology for use in powering transportation, information technology, grid, and other applications. WBG semiconductors allow devices to operate at significantly higher speeds, voltages and temperatures than conventional semiconductor materials, and do so in smaller, lighter packages. Previous efforts by ARPA-E have focused primarily on WBG material and device development without focused redesign of the system architecture, converter circuits and control, packaging, and overall optimization.

The CIRCUITS program will take advantage of advances in WBG semiconductors and integrate novel converter topologies, digital control, thermal management, and semiconductor packaging and interconnect technology to achieve significant and non-incremental improvements in converter performance.

Electricity generation currently accounts for 40% of primary energy consumption in the United States, and electricity continues to be the fastest growing form of end-use energy. Power electronics are responsible for controlling and converting electrical power to provide optimal conditions for transmission, distribution, and load-side consumption. Estimates suggest that the proportion of electricity that passes through power electronics could be as high as 80% by 2030. CIRCUITS technological breakthroughs in high-performance power converters could impact a wide range of applications such as electric motor-driven systems, electric vehicles, high-performance computing and datacenters, power supplies, distributed energy resources, grid transmission/distribution, rail/ship propulsion, aerospace, turbo-lifts, and solid-state circuit breakers—all of which could offer significant energy savings and emissions reductions.

ARPA-E is allocating up to $30 million for CIRCUITS, with $10 million available to small businesses under ARPA-E's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program and $20 million available to all applicants

The deadline to submit a Concept Paper for CIRCUITS is 5 p.m. ET on February 21, 2017. Additional information, including the full FOA and how to find project teaming partners, is available on ARPA-E’s online application portal, ARPA-E eXCHANGE