Development of 1200 Volt, 100 Amp GaN on Silicon Transistors for Automotive Applications
Develop high-voltage, high-current electronic components for further increasing the fuel efficiency of hybrid vehicles.
Sponsor: Velox Semiconductor Corporation, Inc.394 Elizabeth Avenue
Somerset, NJ 08873
One of the major reasons for power losses in hybrid electric vehicles are the losses due to the slow operation and high electrical resistance of silicon-based transistors in the inverter, the component that converts direct-current (DC) power from the battery to the alternating-current (AC) power that drives the motor. The slow operation and high electrical resistance of silicon-based devices limits the efficiency of the vehicle's power supply. Wide bandgap semiconductors such as gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC) are expected to enable much faster switching and much lower resistance. VELOX Semiconductor Corporation has proposed developing high-voltage (600V and 1200V), high-current (20A and 100A) electronic switches—known as enhancement-mode field effect transistors—based on placing gallium nitride on silicon. Successful introduction of these devices would have two major benefits for the U.S. economy: the fuel efficiency of the best-in-class hybrid electrical vehicles could be increased significantly, and power supplies used for consumer, computer, industrial, and telecom applications could become at least 50 percent smaller and more efficient. GaN on Si technology has attracted significant interest from researchers in the last seven years, but major obstacles need to be addressed to use GaN-based transistors. Technical obstacles include producing larger electrical currents and developing "enhancement mode" designs. Cornell University (Ithaca, N.Y.), a leader in GaN device technology, will assist with device development while RPI (Troy, N.Y.) will provide modeling expertise. The National Transportation Research Center at Oak Ridge National Labs (Oak Ridge, Tenn.) will help evaluate the devices for vehicular application. A successful product would provide a positive impact on the $14.3 billion market for power diodes and transistors.