Wide Band-Gap Semiconductor Based Power Electronics for Energy Efficiency
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) was established in 2009 to fund creative, out-of-the-box, transformational energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment at make-or break points in their technology development cycle. Development of advanced power electronics with unprecedented functionality, efficiency, reliability, and reduced form factor are required in an increasingly electrified world economy. Fast switching power semiconductor devices are the key to increasing the efficiency and reducing the size of power electronic systems. Recent advances in wide band-gap (WBG) semiconductor materials, such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) are enabling a new generation of power semiconductor devices that far exceed the performance of silicon-based devices. Past ARPA-E programs (ADEPT, Solar ADEPT, and SWITCHES) have enabled innovations throughout the power electronics value chain, especially in the area of WBG semiconductors. The two recently launched programs by ARPA-E (CIRCUITS and PNDIODES) continue to investigate the use of WBG semiconductors in power electronics. From materials and devices to modules and circuits to application-ready systems integration, ARPA-E projects have demonstrated the potential of WBG semiconductors to lower the cost of high-efficiency power electronics to enable broad adoption in energy applications.