ARPA-E Grants $30 Million for 21 Power Converter Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $30 million in funding for 21 novel projects. The funding is part of the Creating Innovative and Reliable Circuits Using Inventive Topologies and Semiconductors (CIRCUITS) program. CIRCUITS project teams intend to expedite the development and deployment of unique electric power converters that save energy and grant the United States a critical technological advantage.

Power electronics condition, handle, and convert electrical power to optimize the delivery, distribution, and consumption of electricity. By 2030, according to U.S. DOE estimates, about 80 percent of all U.S. electricity will pass through power electronic devices.

ARPA-E Awards $30 Million in Funding Through CIRCUITS Program

CIRCUITS projects reportedly employ a new type of wide bandgap-based power converters that are more efficient, lightweight, and reliable. These power converters utilize materials like silicon carbide and gallium nitride instead of the silicon.

“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 chargers, more efficient ship propulsion systems, and lighter, aerodynamic aircraft that can carry more passengers with less fuel.”

Wide bandgap semiconductors let the devices operate at considerably higher temperatures, speeds, and voltage than conventional semiconductor materials, and can do so in packages that are smaller and lighter. Although previous efforts by ARPA-E primarily targeted wide bandgap material and device development. CIRCUITS is aimed at developing new circuit topologies and system designs to maximize the performance benefits for the new wide bandgap devices.