Editorials

SiC To the Rescue!

Every now and again our beloved, recalcitrant silicon carbide (SiC) technology
resurfaces in R&D circles as a rescue solution to some kind of particularly
difficult undertaking in high temp/high power application environments. The
challenge in this case has been issued by the US Navy to an especially promising
high power inverter manufacturer of the boxes that convert DC to AC, for use
with solar arrays and wind turbines. The company is called Princeton
Power Systems
(PPS), a USA firm based in Princeton, New Jersey. Their task
in this Navy SBIR is to develop a novel SiC based power transformer that will
control a megawatt of power within a one cubic meter volume. The device has
to switch megawatts of electrical power at frequencies of 50,000 Hertz at temperatures
above 200 degrees Centigrade, which is far in excess of what conventional silicon
power transistors can do. Leave it to the Navy to always try and put something
glowing hot into a tiny tin can!

Princeton Power Systems got its start in the 2001 timeframe and was cofounded
by Mark Holveck, CTO, and Erik Limpaecher, VP of Engineering. President and
CEO of PPS is Darren Hammell. All three hail from Princeton University, thus
the obvious name for their company. When you look at their respective backgrounds
on the company website “about
section, you’ll not only see they’re up to the jobs they’ve successfully tackled
since the company’s inception, but you’ll also see that the chairman of their
board of directors is none other than Dr. Ed Zschau. I knew Ed when he was the
whiz kid in Silicon Valley way back when genius really mattered. He’s an incredible
person and undoubtedly incredible inspiration to this young power system company.
Also on the board of PPS is Dr. Greg Olsen whom many of us old timers remember
from his sterling days establishing Sensors Unlimited, and Dr. Rudy Limpaecher,
inventor of AC-link technology. And another familiar name has just joined PPS,
our old pal Gareth Llewellyn who was at Emcore back in Somerset… back when
it was an MOCVD powerhouse. Gareth negotiated lucrative epiwafer contracts for
Emcore like no one else could. With Gareth now onboard PPS, the company’s environmentally
in vogue technology should be a shoe-in! For those of you who want to
get reconnected with Gareth, he can now be reached at: Tel: 978-417-9717, Email:
gllewellyn@princetonpower.com.

Since we all know how difficult SiC is to work with on such high end applications
as the Navy demands, Princeton Power will be getting some high power help by
working on the project with United Silicon Carbide Inc. located in nearby New
Brunswick, New Jersey. That effort is being led by Dr. Jian Zhao who is currently taking a sabbatical from Rutgers University. Other companies involved are Cree and Genesic Semiconductor,
thus the program carries with it an especially high probability for success.
At the completion of the program, PPS will have a device for systems that could
switch up to a megawatt of power in a volume less than the size of a standard
filing cabinet. And hey, isn’t that what any decent CS devices is superposed
to be able to do… smaller, smarter, tougher, etc.? The Navy program should
be able to enable PPS to make a commercial product that will offer significant
improvements in the efficiency of alternative energy systems like solar and
wind power as well as conventional electrical systems and carries with it a
high The trick, as usual, will be to figure out of to clone and manufacture the Navy device for less than they’ll be able to sell it for to ultimate commercial customers. But with the team Princeton Power has behind it, and the temper during this recession shifting rapidly to an energy efficient economy, I’d say the chances for PPS’ success are very good.

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