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DOE Awards $13.4 million to GaN Research

The US Department of Energy is providing funding to 4 Gallium Nitride (GaN) based research projects to accelerate development in power electronics.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has announced 43 cutting-edge research projects that aim to dramatically improve how the U.S. uses and produces energy.  Funded with $92 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act through the Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the selections focus on accelerating innovation in green technology while increasing America's competitiveness in power electronics, grid scale energy storage, and building efficiency. The ARPA-E projects in 18 states in the US will increase America's competitiveness and create jobs.

"These innovative ideas will play a critical role in our energy security and economic growth," said Chu. "It is now more important than ever to invest in a new, clean energy economy."

Several of the projects are focused on Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology and the topic areas for these include:

  • Switches – Automobiles: Gallium‐Nitride Switch Technology for Bi‐directional Battery‐to‐Grid Charger Applications

  • The purpose of the project is to develop efficient, high power, and cost effective power converters with application to the automotive sector. More specifically, it will utilize high voltage GaN on low cost silicon substrate switches operating at megahertz frequencies. The innovative design will result in a battery‐to‐grid bi‐directional charger that enables efficient, cost effective power management focusing on grid‐interactive distributed energy systems for the automotive sector.

    Awarded $5,058,803 , the project will be led by HRL Laboratories in partnership with GM, Va Polytech, ORNL and Teledyne.

  • Advanced Technologies for Integrated Power Electronics

  • This project targets radical improvements in the size, integration and performance of power electronics for high‐efficiency solid‐state lighting (SSL) with a focus on circuits for interfacing with grid‐scale voltages (>100 V) at power levels of 10 – 100W. Specifically it will develop Gallium Nitride on Silicon (GaN‐on‐Si) power devices, nano‐structured magnetic materials and microfabricated magnetic components, and very‐high‐frequency power conversion circuits. Additional focus will be on the co‐optimization of these novel elements to achieve high‐performance.

    Awarded $4,414,009, the project will be led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology in partnership with Dartmouth, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Pennsylvania and OnChip Power.

  • High Performance GaN HEMT Modules for Agile Power Electronics

  • CA, Switches ‐Motors: This project seeks to enable compact motor drives and grid‐tied inverters operating at high power (3‐10 kW) with efficiency greater than 96%. It will develop the first hybrid multichip power modules for inverters and converters operating at high frequency (1 megahertz), using low‐loss ultra‐fast GaN‐on‐silicon power switches that are normally in off mode. This vertically integrated approach realizes cost savings at many levels in power electronic systems, to produce unprecedented energy savings at reduced systems cost. The result would foster wide deployment of compact, high efficiency variable speed drives, which could be embedded in new motors or even retrofitted to older generation motors.

    Awarded $2,950,000, the project will be headed by Transphorm in partnership with Kroko, Evans Analytical, UCSB Nanotech, Consultant Magnetics and Stacia Keller.

  • Power Supplies on a Chip (PSOC)

  • This project is expected to result in a technology to replace the current power management voltage regulators for powering the future generations of microprocessors, graphic cards and memory devices. A 3D integrated PSOC will be developed using chip‐scale integration of a new generation of GaN-on-Si devices with new high frequency soft magnetic material. By significantly reducing the size of magnetic components and eliminating most of the bulk capacitors, this high density PSOC is expected to free up 90% of space on mother boards currently occupied by voltage regulators (25% of the motherboard).

    Awarded $983,000, the project will be headed by Virginia Technology in partnership with the University of Delaware and International Rectifier.

    ARPA-E received 529 initial concept papers and encouraged approximately 164 applicants to submit full applications. Multiple review panels composed of leading U.S. science and technology experts reviewed each proposal and made recommendations based on scientific and technical merit and the potential to dramatically advance national energy and economic goals. Potential additional applications for funding innovative research projects are pending further review.
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