Power electronic devices based on new semiconductor materials have the potential to revolutionize energy conversion in terms of energy efficiency, compactness and reduced weight. Electricity, on its path from generation to consumption in various systems needs to be multiply converted up and down and into different forms. Highly efficient energy converter are the key technology: Any percent point in improved efficiency saves a huge amount of primary energy.
GaN power switching devices implemented in power conversion systems have a very large potential in this regard. Compared to pre-existing semiconductor power switching technologies they offer quite some advantages. Thanks to their special physical properties they are switching more efficient and faster and thus offer the possibility to further reduce volume and weight of converter systems. This opens up new market opportunities for both, consumer appliances and for high-end applications such as aerospace technologies.
In the field of power electronics, the FBH designs, fabricates, and characterizes novel wide bandgap semiconductor devices for power electronic applications. These activities started about 10 years ago with the development of normally-off GaN power switching devices out of the pre-existing knowledge on GaN microwave power transistors. Recently, GaN power switching devices for 600 V operation have been demonstrated. They are optimized for 75 mΩ on-state resistance, can deliver 120 A maximum drain current and show a 5-fold reduction of gate charge and a 30-fold reduction of input capacitance as compared to Infineon CoolMOS devices with nominally the same on-state resistance rating.
These are very encouraging results which need to be exploited fully also in relation to circuit architectures adjusted to the specific properties of GaN power switching devices. In this regard the Joint Lab Power Electronics, a cooperative undertaking between FBH and the Technische Universität Berlin has been inaugurated in 2014. It designs and realizes GaN-specific circuit architectures for energy converters, explores the possibilities of this new technology, benchmarks it against other power semiconductor device families, and explores the limitations.