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:
The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) and its project team will develop an extremely efficient AC-to-DC converter based on gallium nitride (GaN) devices for use in datacenters. Datacenters are the backbones of modern information technology and their physical size and power consumption is rapidly growing. Converters for datacenters need to be power dense and efficient to maximize the computing power per unit volume and to reduce operating costs and environmental impact. This project team seeks to develop a prototype device that converts power from a universal grid input (110-240 V at 50-60 Hz) to 48 V DC, the standard for datacenter and telecom supply. The team hopes that this GaN-based converter will enable a complete redesign of the power delivery network for future datacenters; while achieving a three-fold reduction in energy loss and 10 times improvement in power density over traditional conversion circuits. If successful, project developments will greatly reduce the amount of energy lost powering datacenters while significantly improving power capability over current converters.
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.
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 applications.
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.