UA, Cree get nearly $4 million in federal funding to improve electric power devices

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 339 views 

The University of Arkansas and Cree Fayetteville will receive more than $4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to develop more efficient electric power converters.

On Wednesday (Aug. 23), the federal agency announced $30 million in funding for 21 projects as part of the Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors (CIRCUITS) program. Power electronic devices are used to condition, control and convert electrical power to improve the transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity. By 2030, 80% of all U.S. electricity might pass though the devices.

The CIRCUITS projects include a new class of efficient, lightweight and reliable power converters using wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technology. Materials include silicon carbide or gallium nitride instead of silicon, which has been commonly used.

“Hardware built with WBG devices has the potential to be smaller, lighter and much more energy-efficient, with applications across valuable sectors including transportation, information technology, the grid and consumer electronics,” said ARPA-E Acting Director Dr. Eric Rohlfing. “Developments from CIRCUITS projects could one day lead to super-fast, compact electric vehicle charges, more efficient ship propulsion systems and lighter, aerodynamic aircraft that can carry more passengers with less fuel.”

Wide bandgap semiconductors allow devices to operate at higher speeds, voltages and temperatures compared to conventional semiconductor materials. They also allow the devices to operate in smaller, lighter packages.

University of Arkansas will receive $2.16 million to develop reliable, high power density inverters for heavy equipment applications, including trucks, buses and cars. The UA and its project team will create a 2 by 250 kilowatt power inverter system. If successful, the device would cost 50% less and be four times as powerful as existing technology.

Cree Fayetteville, which operates as Wolfspeed, A Cree Company, will receive $1.91 million to develop a smart, compact, efficient 500 kilowatt DC fast charger for electric vehicles. The device would be 60% more efficient, 75% smaller, 85% lighter and 40% less expensive than existing technology.