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New semiconductor materials to herald massive boost in power efficiency

Editorial
article image INFINEON says its research project "NeuLand" has resulted in new semiconductor materials that could cut energy loss in switched-mode power supplies in half.

INFINEON says its research project "NeuLand" has resulted in new semiconductor materials that could cut energy loss in switched-mode power supplies in half.

The NeuLand project is a research project being carried out by AIXTRON, Infineon Technologies, SiCrystals and SMA Solar Technology. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded the Infineon-directed project with a total of approximately 4.7 million Euro.

The results from the research could have implications for the power supplies commonly found in PCs, flat-screen TV, servers, telecommunications systems, and also make solar inverters even more compact and cost-efficient.

The research partners developed highly-integrated components and electronic circuits which made it possible to reduce energy loss in circuits by 35 percent as early as during tests in ongoing research activities.

The key to reducing energy losses by half is use of the semiconductor materials silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride on silicon (GaN-on-Si), whose electronic properties enable compact and efficient power electronics circuits.

Infineon already uses the material SiC in its JFETs and diodes for the 600V to 1700V voltage class. These power semiconductors are primarily used in switched-mode power supplies for PCs or televisions and in motor drives. In the future they may also gain major significance for solar inverters.

Prior to the NeuLand project, SiC was a very expensive wafer material. Its research has boosted the number of SiC vendors, and expanded the number of possible applications.

The project partners were able to demonstrate that the efficiency of power electronics can be increased by more than a third using SiC and GaN-based components.

The researchers anticipate that the cost of SiC components will have to drop even more for it to be widely used in solar inverters and that for GaN-based components further intensive research is required on reliability, service lifetime and costs.

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