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 Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) and its project team will develop new integrated motor drives (IMDs) using current-source inverters (CSIs). Recent advances in both silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) wide-bandgap semiconductor devices make these power switches well-suited for the selected CSI topology that the team plans to integrate into high-efficiency electric motors with spinning permanent magnets. The objective is to take advantage of the special performance characteristics of the technology to increase the penetration of variable-speed drives into heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) applications. Many of the HVAC installations in the U.S. residential and commercial sectors still use constant-speed motors even though there is a well-recognized potential for major energy savings available by converting them to variable-speed operation. If successful, the new IMDs will be capable of producing significant energy savings in a wide variety of industrial, commercial, and residential applications ranging from air conditioners to pumps and 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.