General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing a new gas tube switch that could significantly improve and lower the cost of utility-scale power conversion. A switch breaks an electrical circuit by interrupting the current or diverting it from one conductor to another. To date, solid state semiconductor switches have completely replaced gas tube switches in utility-scale power converters because they have provided lower cost, higher efficiency, and greater reliability. GE is using new materials and innovative designs to develop tubes that not only operate well in high-power conversion, but also perform better and cost less than non-tube electrical switches. A single gas tube switch could replace many semiconductor switches, resulting in more cost effective high power converters.
If successful, GE’s new gas tube switches would significantly lower the system cost of very high-power electrical grid applications, transforming electric power transmission in the U.S.
This project could contribute to a smarter, more advanced, more reliable, and more secure electric grid.
More efficient power converters could help reduce U.S. electricity consumption, and in turn reduce the harmful emissions created by coal-fired power plants.
Efficient and affordable grid-scale power converters could help lower power bills for average consumers.