Strategies for Wide Bandgap, Inexpensive Transistors for Controlling High-Efficiency Systems
The projects in ARPA-E's SWITCHES program, which is short for “Strategies for Wide-Bandgap, Inexpensive Transistors for Controlling High-Efficiency Systems,” are focused on developing next-generation power switching devices that could dramatically improve energy efficiency in a wide range of applications, including new lighting technologies, computer power supplies, industrial motor drives, and automobiles. SWITCHES projects aim to find innovative new wide-bandgap semiconductor materials, device architectures, and device fabrication processes that will enable increased switching frequency, enhanced temperature control, and reduced power losses, at substantially lower cost relative to today’s solutions. More specifically, SWITCHES projects are advancing bulk gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductor devices, the manufacture of silicon carbide (SiC) devices using a foundry model, and the design of synthetic diamond-based transistors. A number of SWITCHES projects are small businesses being funded through ARPA-E’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program.
Power switching devices are critical to America’s energy infrastructure because all electronics—from laptops to electric motors—rely on them to control or convert electrical energy from a high voltage to a low voltage in order to properly operate. However, most of today’s high-voltage power electronics systems are based on silicon (Si) semiconductor devices, which have notable performance limitations. It is important to improve the performance and efficiency of these high-power systems because they are used to connect solar panels and wind turbines to the grid, to operate industrial equipment like elevators and HV/AC systems, and to run the motors in electric and hybrid-electric vehicles—among other important applications.
If successful, SWITCHES projects would significantly lower the cost and improve the energy efficiency of power switching devices, a critical component of America’s energy infrastructure.
Advances in power electronics could facilitate greater adoption of electric vehicles, which in turn could help reduce U.S. oil imports.
More efficient power electronics systems promise reduced electricity consumption, resulting in fewer harmful energy-related emissions.
More efficient power electronics would use less energy, saving American families and business owners money on their power bills.