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27 June 2014

Germany’s NeuLand project cuts energy losses by 35% in power electronics

Directed by Infineon Technologies AG together with partners Aixtron, SiCrystal AG and SMA Solar Technology AG, the three-year German project NeuLand (begun in late 2010) has developed highly integrated components and electronic circuits that, in tests during ongoing research, have enabled energy losses to be reduced by 35%.

Key to halving energy losses is the use of silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride on silicon (GaN-on-Si), whose electronic properties enable compact and efficient power electronics circuits. NeuLand is an abbreviation of the German for ‘Innovative power devices with high energy efficiency and cost effectiveness based on wide-bandgap compound semiconductors’.

Infineon already uses SiC in its field-effect transistor (JFET) and diodes for the 600-1700V class. These power semiconductors are primarily used in switched-mode power supplies for PCs or TVs and in motor drives. In the future they may also become significant for solar inverters.

SiC has traditionally been a very expensive wafer material. However, there are now more SiC vendors and the number of possible applications has grown. NeuLand project partners have been able to demonstrate that the efficiency of power electronics can be increased by more than a third using SiC- and GaN-based components. For example, solar inverters can benefit from considerable material savings with no change in effectiveness, making them more cost-efficient. But results also show that the cost of SiC components must drop even further for wide-scale application to solar inverters and that, for GaN-based components, further intensive research is required on reliability, service lifetime and costs.

Aixtron was represented in the project as an equipment provider for semiconductor production, while wafer manufacturer SiCrystal was on board for the SiC substrates. Semiconductor manufacturer Infineon researched the power semiconductor devices and the production steps for SiC- and GaN-based components, while system technology expertise in the solar sector was provided by SMA Solar Technology. The project partner says that, with NeuLand, they were able to further expand their respective proficiencies in future-oriented SiC and GaN technologies along a very wide-ranging segment of the value-creation chain.

The NeuLand project was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) to a total of about €4.7m as a part of the call for proposals on ‘Power Electronics for Energy Efficiency Enhancement’ (LES) in the German Federal Government’s program ‘IKT 2020 – Research for Innovation’. The objective of IKT 2020 is to strengthen Germany’s position in electronic technologies.

See related items:

NEULAND project aims to halve energy loss for renewables, telecoms and lighting

Tags: Power electronics GaN-on-Si SiC

Visit: www.infineon.com

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