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CHPPE to allow research into more effective power electronics, semiconductors

The Ohio State University officially launched its Center for High Performance Power Electronics (CHPPE) Wednesday, opening the door for tremendous advances in power electronics and superconductor technology.

The center will allow Ohio State researchers to exploit the advantages of silicon carbide-based power devices over the current standard silicon-based devices.

“With the opening of the CHPPE, faculty and graduate students will have a well-equipped platform to jointly work on interdisciplinary and challenging research topics on wide-band-gap power electronics,” said Professor Longya Xu. “The research results then can be turned into real products and services for aerospace, automotive, and renewable energy industries. Ohio will become more competitive in the global market.”

Currently, most power semiconductors are silicon-based. By comparison, silicon-carbide semiconductors are capable of operating in temperatures 50 to 100 degrees centigrade higher. They also offer much higher switching frequencies and are more efficient.

“The immediate research and challenges are to fully take advantage of high voltage, high temperature, and high switching speed of wide-band-gap semiconductor materials for device fabrication and application,” Xu said.

The resulting power conversion equipment will have much higher performance and be less expensive than the existing ones, which are based on silicon semiconductor materials.

The center is expected to provide facilities for 50 graduate students and five core faculty members, Xu said.

CHPPE was established through $9.1 million in Ohio Third Frontier grants beginning in 2010. Additional project partners have included GE Aviation, Air Force Wright-Patterson Research Lab, Ford, and Texas Instruments. Grant funds were invested into equipment, software, test hardware and facility upgrades that will make future research possible.

The center research has the promise of benefitting many Ohio industries through the development of technology such as uninterruptable power supplies, variable speed motors for air conditioners, power converters for linking photovoltaic energy conversion to the utility grid and advances for electric/hybrid electric vehicles.