New Conversion Design Doubles Electrical Power

Power station at dusk and power lines.

Dec 19, 2017

When it comes to electronic devices, the amount of power available at the outlet is not identical to the power that runs through the cord and to the connected device. This is because a converter is needed for managing that flow of electrical power. The size and efficiencies of these converters obviously impact device capabilities.

However, researchers recently unveiled a gallium nitride power converter that addresses both efficiency and size concerns.  Typically, gallium nitride power devices can't handle voltages above 600 volts, which is why they’re relegated to household electronics. The new design doubles that amount, which would be enough to power an electric car.

Furthermore, the team believes that with additional testing, the capacity could reach 5,000 volts, which would position it for grid applications. This increased power and efficiency stems from a design that changes the placement of a gallium nitride wafer. Instead of current flowing through the surface of the semiconductor, it flows through the wafer and across the semiconductor.

This vertical placement is better in terms of the quantity of power it can handle because there's simply more space for input and output wires, which enables higher current loads. This design also mitigates heat dissipation, which results in less waste.

Although the advantages of vertical designs are well-known, it can be costly and difficult to fabricate gallium nitride. So in addition to improving the overall design of the converter, next steps will also focus on the means to fully utilize the conversion capabilities of gallium nitride.