The acronym-loving officials of ARPA-E have established a new program called Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors (CIRCUITS), which will award up to $20 million to develop a new class of efficient, lightweight, and reliable power converters based on wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors (DE-FOA-0001727).
There’s an additional $10 million to be had in a companion funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001736). The submission deadline for concept papers is February 20.
Areas of interest for the CIRCUITS program include novel circuit topologies, advanced control and drive electronics, and innovative packaging, intended to catalyze the adoption of higher performance power converters in automotive and other applications.
Most current power electronics use silicon power semiconductors. Devices fabricated from WBG semiconductors such as SiC and GaN have the potential to be faster and more energy-efficient, and to support a higher range of operating temperatures. High-breakdown electric fields, low conduction losses, and short carrier lifetimes mean that WBG materials can achieve the same blocking voltage and on-resistance with a smaller footprint and at much higher frequency than a comparable silicon device.
WBG semiconductors therefore provide a pathway to overcome the fundamental performance tradeoffs between blocking voltage, on-resistance, and switching frequency inherent to silicon devices, enabling the design of faster, more efficient, lighter, and smaller power converters with reduced cooling requirements.
“Previous R&D efforts have focused on WBG material and device development where advanced WBG power semiconductors would be substituted for silicon, but mostly without redesign of the circuit topology,” reads the funding opportunity description. “Direct replacement of Si devices by WBG semiconductors limits the potential improvements in power electronic performance metrics. Thus, there is now an opportunity to build on the successes from earlier programs and aim for both higher performance, as well as increased market penetration, of these particularly promising technologies.”