Power conversion is the process of converting electric energy from one form to another, such as changing the voltage to adapt to the needs of an electronic device. During this process, transistors amplify or switch electric signals and electrical power, for example conversion from alternating current to direct current. In modern medium-voltage power conversion systems, solid-state switch and diode losses limit the maximum switching frequencies. At lower frequencies, transformers and converter filters can weigh up to several tons, which increases system and installation costs, and limits design flexibility in conventional and renewable energy applications. There is a need for high-voltage (>10 kV), solid-state solutions capable of switching at high frequency (1-20 kHz) and scalable to high currents. This development can lead to highly efficient, lightweight, multi-megawatt/multi-kilohertz power conversion systems for use on the electric grid.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
GE Global Research will develop a device architecture for the world’s first high-voltage silicon carbide (SiC) super junction (SJ) field-effect transistors. These devices will provide highly efficient power conversion (such as from direct to alternating current) in medium voltage applications, including renewables like solar and wind power, as well as transportation. The SJ transistor devices consist of pillars of alternating doping providing charge-balancing allowing the devices to scale to high voltage while offering up to 10 times lower losses compared to commercial silicon-based transistors available today. The SJ pillars are formed using high-energy (>40MeV) implantation for a deep selective area doping process in SiC. GE is working with Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), which is the only domestic organization that is capable of providing the high-energy implantations, to add a high temperature (~1000ºC) capability during the implantations which is critical to the success of the project.
If successful, innovations from GE’s project will enable highly efficient, medium voltage, multi-megawatt power conversion.
This program will enhance U.S. technological leadership and manufacturing of SiC power devices.
If widely implemented, this technology would dramatically reduce energy consumption-related emissions.
Innovations from these devices can save enough energy to power 5.9 million homes annually and save businesses and homeowners money on electricity.