Challenges and successes in accelerating the adoption of wide bandgap power electronics

In accelerating adoption of wide bandgap semiconductors, the power electronics community must focus on an increasing number of applications for both SiC and GaN technologies that are most likely to deliver near term improvements in systems that can benefit from the superior efficiency, reliability, and total cost of ownership offered by SiC and GaN. This in turn will continue to build confidence among decision makers in wide bandgap ecosystem companies and encourage further market growth and industry demand.
This session will focus on challenges and recent successes in several key applications for SiC and GaN that have been identified by PowerAmerica’s members in the PowerAmerica Technology Roadmap as important to near-term growth. These include:

EV Inverters (SiC): Motor drive inverters with high power density and efficiency at elevated temperatures are essential to EVs. WBG semiconductors are ideal for such applications because of their advantages over Si in high temperature and frequency applications. Lower system costs and vehicle design simplification will improve power electronics (PE) devices integration with vehicles. The cost competitiveness of WBG semiconductors is the main hurdle for EV/HEV inverter applications.

PV Inverters (SiC): Power electronics are essential components of renewable energy power conversion, particularly the high-efficiency DC-to-AC conversion needed for photovoltaic (PV) energy generated at utility-scale solar farms. WBG-based PV inverters and PV systems convert power more efficiently, yielding significant energy savings. Along with PV systems, the PE community is also looking into WBG to increase the efficiency, power density, reliability, and other requirements (e.g., portability and EMI specification) of power inverters for wind, geothermal, and other renewable energy systems.

Enterprise Equipment (GaN): GaN-based enterprise equipment has evolved rapidly in recent years. A wide variety of applications for wireless power transfer systems—ideal for fast charging laptops or smart phones using GaN power amplifiers and E-HEMT transistors—have emerged using GaN semiconductors. Other examples include GaN-on-Si for switches, routers, servers, and data center power converters. The benefits of these GaN applications include improved power quality (or reduced power loss) in electric transmission and distribution that are closely related to smart grids and renewable energy applications (e.g., wind and solar power systems).

Data Centers (SiC and GaN): Combined with system-level improvements to power architecture, WBG power devices will dramatically increase power delivery efficiency and simplify the design of data center power systems. The simplified design of DC-powered data centers compared to traditional AC-powered centers provides lower energy conversion losses, higher reliability, and smaller equipment footprints for power conversion and cooling equipment. Key enablers for success in this near-term priority include high power density, low switching losses, and high-temperature operation, which ultimately increase system efficiency.

Industrial AC/DC Power Supplies (SiC and GaN): Power supplies are ubiquitous in electronics because all require converting power inputs to the required outputs. Power supplies using SiC and GaN are now widespread in the PE market due to several key factors. These include high power efficiency (e.g., >96%) related to fast switching speed, high power density/smaller size, good reliability, and potential for reduced costs.

Session Chairs:

Victor Veliadis is Deputy Executive Director and CTO of PowerAmerica, which is a U.S Department of Energy wide bandgap power electronics public-private Manufacturing Institute. Dr. Veliadis manages a budget in excess of $30 million per year that he strategically allocates to over 35 industrial, University, and National-Laboratory projects, to enable US leadership in WBG power electronics manufacturing, work force development, job creation, and energy savings.
Dr. Veliadis has given over 60 invited resentations/keynotes/tutorials, and is an IEEE Fellow and an IEEE EDS Distinguished Lecturer. He has 25 issued US patents, 3 book chapters, and 115 peer-reviewed technical publications to his credit. Dr. Veliadis is also Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering at North Carolina State University. He received the Ph.D. degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1995 in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Prior to being named Deputy Executive Director and CTO of Power America in 2016, Dr. Veliadis spent 21 years in the semiconductor industry where his technical work included design, fabrication, and testing of 1-12 kV SiC SITs, JFETs, MOSFETs, Thyristors, and JBS and PiN diodes.

Jim LeMunyon is the Director of Membership and Industry Relations at PowerAmerica. He is responsible for facilitating PowerAmerica’s member-led initiatives and implementation of the organization’s value proposition, in addition to member recruitment. Mr. LeMunyon was co-founder of Sterling Semiconductor, the second SiC substrate companies in the United States, which is now a unit of Dow, Inc. He is also a former CEO of Hexatech, an aluminum nitride semiconductor company. In addition to his career in business, Mr. LeMunyon has served on the adjunct faculty of George Mason University and as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Export Administration at the U.S. Department of Commerce. He earned a B.S. in physics and mathematics from Valparaiso University and an M.S. in meteorology from the University of Wisconsin.


Vladimir Blasko, United Technologies Research Center

Marko Jaksic, General Motors Company

Philip Zuk, Transphorm

Brij Singh, Deere & Company