State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute says that associate professor of nanoengineering Dr Woongje Sung has been selected to receive $375,000 in federal funding as part of an overall $750,000 project from the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop silicon carbide (SiC) power electronics chips that are smaller and more efficient than existing power electronics chips. Sung’s research efforts could also lead to the development of a more cost-effective manufacturing process for making the chips, enabling more robust chips for application ranging from solar energy, electric vehicles, and the electric grid.
“This effort paves the way for hands-on student research opportunities in an area of critical importance to our country’s energy future,” comments SUNY Poly’s provost Dr William Durgin.
“SUNY Poly is playing a role in the technologies of the future and making the chips utilized in our electrical grid, for example, more energy efficient, in addition to being cheaper to manufacture,” says associate professor of nanoengineering Dr Michael Carpenter, SUNY Poly’s interim dean of the College of Nanoscale Engineering and Technology Innovation.
Supported by the DOE grant, Sung’s research will utilize the material properties of SiC, which allow metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) to be designed ten times smaller than silicon-based counterpart. Coupled with an expected move from 4” to 6” wafers, the anticipated economies of scale could lead to vastly more cost-effective production of power electronics chips via Sung’s innovative design concepts and the establishment of a more efficient manufacturing process flow.
The research could lead to improved performance for a wide variety of applications, it is reckoned. Sung and his research team will focus on developing SiC MOSFETs and diodes with voltage ratings of 600V for power supplies, photovoltaic inverters, and electric vehicles; 3.3kV and 6.5kV for heavy-duty vehicles and wind turbines; and 10kV for circuit breakers and electrical grid applications, for example.
“This work, leading to chips that consume less energy, could save significant amounts of energy once they are produced in a way that makes them even easier to adopt,” says Sung.
The power electronics-focused research will support SUNY Poly graduate and undergraduate students, who will gain first-hand experience optimizing the device structure, designing the process flow, and characterizing fabricated devices.
The new grant also follows a recent award of $720,000 in funding from the DOE for the further development of gallium nitride (GaN)-based power electronics at SUNY Poly, in which Sung received a portion of the funds for research in partnership with interim dean of graduate studies Dr Fatemeh (Shadi) Shahedipour-Sandvik, the Army Research Lab, Drexel University, and Gyrotron Technology Inc. That DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) funding will be used to develop new ways to fabricate semiconductors for high-performance, high-powered applications such as electric vehicles and the grid.