U.S. Department of Energy Invests in Next-Generation Semiconductor to Enhance Power Grids

May 11, 2024
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Introduction

To address growing energy demand and achieve clean energy goals, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced funding for a series of next-generation semiconductor projects to improve and upgrade the nation’s electric grid. These projects aim to accelerate the research, development and application of advanced semiconductor technologies to ensure the efficiency and stability of the power grid.

 

Background: Department of Energy’s Vision and Goals

As power demand continues to increase and the proportion of clean energy increases, the power grid needs to bear greater loads while maintaining stability and flexibility. This DOE initiative works to improve the electric grid through advanced semiconductor technologies, including:

  • Improve grid efficiency: Improve overall efficiency by reducing losses during power transmission.
  • Enhance stability and reliability: Prevent grid overload and blackouts through real-time monitoring and intelligent control.
  • Support the development of clean energy: ensure efficient grid integration of renewable energy and flexible management of distributed energy resources.

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The role of next-generation semiconductor technology

The funded projects focus on developing advanced wide-bandgap semiconductor technologies and related power electronics to deliver better performance and lower energy consumption. Some of these key technologies include silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN), new power electronic devices such as super-junction MOSFETs and insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBT), and power electronic modules with system integration.

Silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) are wide-bandgap semiconductor materials that can operate at high temperatures and provide higher switching efficiency. They are ideally suited for use in HVDC transmission, renewable energy inverters and smart transformers. New power electronic devices such as superjunction MOSFETs offer higher current density and lower on-resistance than traditional MOSFETs, while IGBTs are suitable for high-voltage, high-power applications that require improved switching efficiency.

Power electronic modules with system integration help increase power density and reliability through modular design and integration. Advanced packaging and cooling technology ensures stable operation of the equipment at high temperatures.

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How these projects improve grid performance

These new semiconductor projects aim to reduce power transmission and conversion losses through the use of wide bandgap semiconductor materials and advanced power electronics. This improves overall efficiency. These projects also enhance grid flexibility and stability by making renewable energy integration and distributed energy management more efficient. With smart transformers and real-time monitoring, the grid can better cope with peak loads. In addition, these projects support clean energy goals by providing technology for efficient grid integration of wind and solar energy.

 

Conclusion

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Next Generation Semiconductor Program offers significant opportunities for the future of the electric grid. Advanced wide-bandgap semiconductor and power electronics technologies will significantly improve the efficiency and stability of the power grid and provide technical support for achieving clean energy goals.