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:
Infineon Technologies will develop a new, low-cost integrated circuit (IC) gate driver specifically for use with gallium nitride (GaN) high electron mobility transistor (HEMT) switches. The GaN HEMT switches would be used as a component for controlling variable speed electric motors in variable speed drives (VSDs). Electric motors, which account for about 40% of U.S. electricity consumption, can be made substantially more efficient by replacing constant speed motors with variable speed motors. Most VSDs today use silicon-based semiconductors, which are limited in performance compared to those based on wide-bandgap semiconductors like GaN. Infineon plans to integrate a cost-effective gate driver IC together with GaN HEMT switches and simple packaging to enable a cost reduction by a factor of two or three, simplified integration, and significant energy savings. If successful, the technology may drive rapid adoption of variable speed control in residential and light commercial 50-200W appliance motors from fans and pumps to refrigeration and air conditioning compressors.
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.