Project focuses on power electronics efficiency

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A new project has been launched in a bid to enable more compact and powerful energy converters, using gallium nitride (GaN).

The EU HiPoSwitch project is sponsored by the Ferdinand-Braun-Institut, Berlin and over the next three years will focus on researching novel GaN based transistors. The researchers believe these could be key switching devices in ensuring increased efficiency in future power converter systems, requiring less volume and weight, and enabling enhanced performance. The efficiency of current systems is largely limited by the active components used, which are mostly silicon based. The researchers believe GaN can be the basis material for power switches operating at significantly higher frequencies without suffering from major switching losses. This is due to the drastically lower on state resistance of GaN power transistors, combined with considerably reduced in and output capacitances. The increase of switching frequency also has consequences for passive components as the volume of inductors, current transformers and capacitors can be reduced. The whole assembly therefore becomes smaller and more lightweight. The transistors will be built up on cost efficient silicon substrates. Throughout the project, normally-off GaN power transistors in vertical device architecture will be jointly developed by the German research institute FBH and Infineon Technologies Austria. Processing will mainly be carried out on GaN-on-Si wafers provided by EpiGaN, but also benchmarked against GaN-on-SiC epitaxial wafers delivered by FBH. This work package aims at rapidly transferring the process modules from FBH to the high volume process line at Infineon. In parallel to the device developments, the industrial partners will concentrate on transferring the technology developed to a high volume production environment. The EU HiPoSwitch project has a total budget of €5.6million, nearly €3.6m of which is funded by the European Community.