Gallium nitride, the material of the future for power converters
IK4-IKERLAN is participating in the European “Powerbase” project which is exploring this technology
- 39 members from 9 countries are involved in this initiative that has a budget of 87 million euros funded by the EU
- Devices for applications such as LED lighting, photovoltaic energy, telecommunications, battery chargers and compact power supply sources are set to be developed
Gallium nitride is regarded as one of the materials of the future in the field of power devices. Its capacity to operate at high temperatures and at high frequencies while remaining highly efficient make it a key element for the next generation of power converters.
To drive forward research in this area, the European Union (EU) has set up the Powerbase project in which IK4-IKERLAN is participating. It is a major R&D project involving 38 organisations from 9 European countries, in addition to the above-mentioned R&D centre, and led by Infineon Austria.
Gallium nitride (GaN) has properties that are far superior to those of silicon, the most widely used material right now. So gallium nitride is expected to contribute towards improving power converters, devices that are used to adapt and transform electrical power for a range of purposes.
Power devices based on gallium nitride for applications like LED lighting, photovoltaic energy, telecommunications, battery chargers and compact power supply sources for automation systems will be developed within the framework of this project.
Powerbase is expected to run for 3 years and has a budget of 87 million euros, funded partly by the national ministries of the participating countries and also by the European initiative ECSEL (Electronic Components and Systems for European Leadership) Joint Undertaking.
The sheer size of this project gives an idea of the importance the EU is attaching to this technology. Powerbase is one of the initiatives being driven forward by Europe to strengthen the positioning of its business base in the development of power semiconductors and their use in various applications.
The features of gallium nitride improve the efficiency of power converters and make them smaller and lighter; these are crucial aspects when it comes to enhancing the competitiveness of these devices and of the products into which they are built, in particular, in onboard applications like those of the transport sector.
"With gallium nitride we will achieve better efficiencies and power densities than with the silicon semiconductors currently existing on the market," said Haizea Gaztañaga, the project leader at IK4-IKERLAN.
The role of IK4-IKERLAN
IK4-IKERLAN will be participating in the design, development and validation in the field of a power converter for photovoltaic applications.
“We aim to gather knowledge and experience in the use of gallium nitride semiconductors to develop power converters with high efficiency and power density,” explained Gaztañaga.
However, the know-how developed at the centre has the potential for being applied in other sectors. “Although in the project we will be focussing on its solar application, we will be able to use the knowledge generated to develop solutions for our customers in other sectors, too,” he added.
IK4-IKERLAN is a leading centre in technology transfer and in the contribution of competitive value to companies, thanks to its capacity to offer comprehensive solutions by combining various technological domains. This is possible due to its high degree of expertise in six major areas: embedded systems, power electronics, microtechnologies, energy efficiency and storage, structural dependability and advanced manufacturing and the fact that it has a significant network of national and international collaboration that complements its offer so that it can provide its customers with the best solution.
Name: Enhanced substrates and GaN pilot lines enabling compact power applications, PowerBase
Funding organisation: Unión Europea
Programme: Horizon 2020
Strategic objective: ECSEL-02-2014, ECSEL key applications and essential technologies
Contract No: 662133
Project coordinator: INFINEON