MIT: Device makes power conversion more efficient New design could dramatically cut energy waste in electric vehicles, data centers, and the power grid


Great Things from Small Things .. Nanotechnology Innovation

MIT-Power-Converters-01_0MIT postdoc Yuhao Zhang, handles a wafer with hundreds of vertical gallium nitride power devices fabricated from the Microsystems Technology Laboratories production line. Courtesy of Yuhao Zhang

Power electronics, which do things like modify voltages or convert between direct and alternating current, are everywhere. They’re in the power bricks we use to charge our portable devices; they’re in the battery packs of electric cars; and they’re in the power grid itself, where they mediate between high-voltage transmission lines and the lower voltages of household electrical sockets.

Power conversion is intrinsically inefficient: A power converter will never output quite as much power as it takes in. But recently, power converters made from gallium nitride have begun to reach the market, boasting higher efficiencies and smaller sizes than conventional, silicon-based power converters.

Commercial gallium nitride power devices can’t handle voltages above about 600 volts, however, which limits their use to household…

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