20 July 2017
US DOE awards SUNY Poly $720,000 ARPA-E grant to develop GaN-based power switches as part of PNDIODES program
State University of New York (SUNY) Polytechnic Institute says that interim dean of graduate studies professor Fatemeh (Shadi) Shahedipour-Sandvik and her team of collaborators have been selected to receive $720,000 in federal funding from the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The grant will be used to develop more efficient and powerful high-performance power switches for power electronics applications, such as for enabling a more efficient energy grid. The research - to explore advanced doping and annealing techniques for gallium nitride (GaN)-based power devices - is in partnership with Dr Woongje Sung of SUNY Poly, the Army Research Lab (ARL), Drexel University, and Gyrotron Technology Inc.
“This award is a strong indicator of how SUNY Poly’s resources and facilities are enabling the types of research that have the potential to improve power electronics devices which have become ubiquitous, from those utilized to make the power grid more efficient, to those that can improve electric car capabilities,” notes SUNY Poly’s VP of research Dr Michael Liehr.
“Advanced power electronic devices offer significant advances in power density, efficiency, and reduced total lifecycle cost,” says Shahedipour-Sandvik. “
The SUNY Poly grant is part of $6.9m in funding that ARPA-E is providing through its program Power Nitride Doping Innovation Offers Devices Enabling SWITCHES (PNDIODES) to seven institutions and organizations. With PNDIODES, ARPA-E is tackling a specific challenge in wide-bandgap semiconductor production. Wide-bandgap semiconductor materials such as GaN allow electronic devices to operate at higher temperatures and/or frequencies, for example, than existing silicon-based chips, which is why technical advances in power electronics promise energy-efficiency gains throughout the economy. However, achieving high power conversion efficiency in these systems requires low-loss power semiconductor switches. Power converters based on GaN could potentially meet the challenge by enabling higher-voltage devices with improved efficiency, while also dramatically reducing the size and weight of the device, for example.
The PNDIODES-funded research focuses on selective-area doping. Implemented well, this process can allow the fabrication of devices at a competitive cost compared with traditional silicon-based counterparts. Developing a reliable and usable doping process that can be applied to specific regions of GaN and its alloys is an important obstacle in the fabrication of GaN-based power electronics devices that PNDIODES seeks to overcome. Ultimately, the PNDIODES project teams, including the Shahedipour-Sandvik team and Dr Sung at SUNY Poly as well as the institution’s partners, aim to develop new ways to fabricate semiconductor devices for high-performance, high-power applications like aerospace, electric vehicles, and the grid.
Shahedipour-Sandkvik team’s research (‘Demonstration of PN-junctions by ion implantation techniques for GaN (DOPING-GaN)’) will focus on ion implantation as the centerpiece of its approach and use new annealing techniques to develop processes to activate implanted silicon or magnesium in GaN to build p-n junctions. Utilizing a unique technique with a beam from a gyrotron (a high-power vacuum tube that generates millimeter-wave electromagnetic waves), the team aims to understand the impact of implantation on the microstructural properties of the GaN material and its effects on p-n diode performance.
In addition to this GaN-focused research being conducted by Shahedipour and her team at SUNY Poly (which also provides hands-on research opportunities for a number of the institution’s students), SUNY Poly and General Electric also lead the New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium (NY-PEMC) with the goal of developing and producing low-cost, high-performance 6” silicon carbide (SiC) wafers for power electronics applications. The consortium announced first production of SiC-based patterned wafers in February at the Albany NanoTech Complex’s 150mm SiC line, with production coordinated with SUNY Poly’s Computer Chip Commercialization Center (Quad-C), located at its Utica campus where the SiC-based power chips will be packaged.