Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors
Development of advanced power electronics with unprecedented functionality, efficiency, reliability, and reduced form factor will provide the United States a critical technological advantage in an increasingly electrified world economy. The projects that comprise ARPA E’s CIRCUITS (Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors) program seek to accelerate the development and deployment of a new class of efficient, lightweight, and reliable power converters, based on wide-bandgap (WBG) semiconductors. CIRCUITS projects will establish the building blocks of this class of power converter by advancing higher efficiency designs that exhibit enhanced reliability and superior total cost of ownership. In addition, a reduced form factor (size and weight) will drive adoption of higher performance and more efficient power converters relative to today’s state-of-the-art systems. Past ARPA-E programs have focused on challenges associated with fabricating WBG high-performance switching devices. Program developments led to a new generation of devices that operate at much higher powers, voltages, frequencies, and temperatures than traditional silicon-based semiconductor devices. CIRCUITS projects will build on these earlier ARPA-E programs by designing circuit topologies optimally suited for WBG attributes to maximize overall electrical system performance. Innovations stemming from CIRCUITS projects have the potential to affect high-impact applications wherever electrical power is generated or used, including the electric grid, industrial motor controllers, automotive electrification, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, solar and wind power systems, datacenters, aerospace control surfaces, wireless power transfer, and consumer electronics.
Power electronic devices condition, control, and convert electrical power in order to optimize the transmission, distribution, and consumption of electricity. This is of critical national importance, as 80% of all U.S. electricity could pass through power electronics devices by 2030. Most of today’s power electronics are silicon-based with inherent physical limitations to their performance, temperature resilience, and size. In contrast, emerging WBG materials (e.g. silicon carbide or gallium nitride) and associated devices present opportunities to dramatically improve power converter performance while reducing size and weight. WBG semiconductors have become more widely available in recent years, finding their way into an increasing number of circuits as the technology has matured. While these devices have performed well in select applications, realizing the full potential of WBGs across all sectors of the economy will require transformative advances in circuit design, controls, and system architecture. Technological breakthroughs will catalyze efficiency gains for multiple industrial and consumer sectors while facilitating higher levels of adoption of these superior technologies.
If successful, CIRCUITS projects will enable further development of a revolutionary new class of power converters suitable for applications across the whole power sector and the U.S. economy at large.
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.
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 appliances.
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.