Project Led by Mishra Group Selected for ARPA-E's SWITCHES Program

Schematic structure of a 3D GaN device

Overview

UC Santa Barbara, leading a team that includes Arizona State University, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Transphorm, received $3 million in funding from the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) for their work in the development of new vertical gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor technologies.  This award was announced in October 2013, along with 13 other projects selected under ARPA-E’s SWITCHES program.  SWITCHES, which stands for “Strategies for Wide-Bandgap, Inexpensive Transistors for Controlling High-Efficiency Systems,” is aimed at innovative ways to lower the cost and improve the efficiency of power switching devices.


Microscope image of a vertical GaN device

Background

This Mishra Group-led project is titled “Current Aperture Vertical Electron Transistor (CAVET) Device Architectures for Efficient Power Switching.”  Research has already moved beyond concept, as the team has demonstrated that new vertical GaN semiconductor technologies can operate at a high voltage and have the potential of reaching beyond the performance of lateral GaN devices when switching and converting power.  Application of this technology could enable high-power conversion at low cost in motor drives, electric vehicles, and power grid applications.

Led by Dr. Mishra, the team currently working on this research at UC Santa Barbara includes: Professors James Speck and Steven DenBaars; Drs. Ramya Yeluri, Xiang Liu and Stacia Keller; and students David Browne, Silvia Chan and Maher Tahhan.  Dr. Mishra has previously received recognition for his innovative work in GaN semiconductor development, including the 2012 Heinrich Welker Award for “The Development of Gallium Nitride High Power Electronics from Conception, Education to Commercialization” from the International Symposium on Compound Semiconductors in 2012. 

The first vertical GaN semiconductor was developed at UC Santa Barbara in 2002 and three members of the Mishra Group have completed Ph.D defenses on the subject: Dr. Ilan Ben-Yaacov, now a Lecturer at UC Santa Barbara, conducted the first reported demonstration of an AlGaN/GaN CAVET; Dr. Srabanti Chowdhury is continuing her research on vertical GaN devices for power electronics as an Assistant Professor at Arizona State University; and Dr. Ramya Yeluri defended her thesis in November 2013. 

ARPA-E recognizes this transistor technology as a critical component of modernizing our energy infrastructure. It has great potential to replace the expensive, inefficient and outdated components currently comprising today’s power electronics.

To read the ARPA-E press release, click here.

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