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SiC SPEEDs up grid efficiency

The SPEED project aims to make a step change in the efficiency of power generation, distribution and transmission through the use of SiC as a higher-performing alternative to silicon
The EU-funded SPEED project aims to significantly improve the efficiency and reliability of high-voltage power transmission and distribution - including the penetration of renewable energy - in as little as four years.

One of the main highlights at this year’s CWIEME Berlin is a seminar from Daniel Fernandez, CTO of INAEL Electrical systems and coordinator of the €20 million SPEED project.

The project Involves seventeen companies and research institutions including ABB, Infineon and INAEL  from nine different EU countries.

Daniel Fernandez

SPEED aims to make a step change in the efficiency of power generation, distribution and transmission through the use of SiC - as a higher-performing alternative to silicon - in high power semiconductor devices.

“Silicon carbide is a much better insulator than silicon and can withstand far higher voltages – which makes it attractive for high voltage and high power electrical circuits,” says. Fernandez. “The snag is the price.”

A key contribution of the project, therefore, is to establish the technology required to produce lower cost SiC in sufficiently large amounts to compete with silicon.

Since SPEED began in earnest six months ago, the project team has already made progress in growing wafers of consistently high quality, using techniques that. Fernandez hopes will be industrialised in the future at very low cost. The next challenge is to incorporate these wafers into circuits and devices - and is the reason for Fernandez’s appearance at CWIEME Berlin.

“This project is all about developing real-world solutions that will become available in no more than four years. So I’m really looking forward to putting our research to an industrial audience at CWIEME Berlin - to energy and utility companies and transformer, insulation and switch manufacturers - and receiving their feedback. I want to solve their problems!” he says.

More reliable and environmental

One problem that SPEED anticipates solving is the relatively low penetration of renewable energy in the power grid.

“When you change wind or solar power into a form that is acceptable to the grid you lose a lot of energy,” says Fernandez. “Our current technology is somehow ‘pre-electronic’ from this point of view. But with SiC devices you could feed much more power into the system, allowing us to increase the total contribution of renewable energy on the grid.”

This increased efficiency also has the potential to reduce energy costs but another more certain benefit is increased reliability. More robust transmission and distribution devices would limit disruptions to supply and lay the foundations for the spread of electric vehicles as well as other new electricity-based systems.

Expert in semiconductors

Daniel Fernandez studied Physics at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid before completing his PhD thesis on new models of highly nonlinear charge transport through polycrystalline semiconductors at the Madrid Polytechnical University in 2004.

After graduation Fernandez was hired to set up a ceramic semiconductors factory, IKV Varistores, in Toledo, Spain, which was later acquired by INAEL Electrical Systems, where Fernandez now works as CTO. Fernandez has held posts at the University of Sydney, Princeton University and Stanford University - publishing numerous works on semiconductors - and currently holds a research position at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. He also acts as a consultant for a variety of technology companies.

“We are very pleased to welcome Dr. Fernandez to CWIEME Berlin 2014,” says Chloe Theobald, content manager for CWIEME Berlin. “Promising significant improvements to the grid in just four years’ time, SPEED is one of the most exciting industrial research projects happening in Europe right now - Dr. Fernandez has a lot to offer our visitors.”

Fernandez will be presenting ‘SPEED EU Project - Power electronics and the next generation of efficiency: The EU consortium seeking to make breakthroughs with SiC technology across the supply chain’ at CWIEME Central on Thursday 26th June, from 11:50am to12:30pm.

CWIEME Central seminars are held in English and are free for all CWIEME Berlin visitors to attend.

CWIEME Berlin will be held at Messe Berlin, Messedamm 22, 14055 Berlin, Germany from 24th to 26th June 2014 and is one of the world’s largest events for coil winding, insulation and electrical manufacturing. Opening times are Tuesday and Wednesday 09:00-18:00, Thursday 09:00-16:00.

Admission is available via registering at www.coilwindingexpo.com/berlinto where you can obtain a free visitor’s entry badge. An on-site registration fee of €40 will apply for those who have not already registered online.


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