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Scientists at Leti, a CEA Tech institute, have made a major leap forward in energy conversion electronics with a new GaN transistor capable of handling up to 650 volts.
most electrical devices, the electric current and voltage must be converted to
suit the object being powered—be it a mobile phone or electric vehicle—using a
transformer. This essential power conversion step does however result in energy
loss. Gallium nitride (GaN) and other wide band gap materials can substantially
reduce energy loss, but until now have been cost-prohibitive for use in power
at Leti found a workaround that involves covering a silicon wafer with a very
thin and uniform layer of GaN using CVD. Conventional silicon microelectronics
fabrication techniques can then be used on the wafer, keeping costs down. The
researchers also made a GaN transistor that only conducts electricity when it
receives an on/off command, overcoming a safety hurdle that plagued previous
versions of the transistor, which were always conductive.
650-volt transistor produced has already been transferred to several
manufacturers, including in the automotive industry, where it could one day be
used in electric vehicle charging terminals.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.