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article imageNext generation of power electronics proposed

By Tim Sandle     Nov 30, 2017 in Science
What will the next generation of power electronics be like and what are the key features required? One feature of interest is with reducing power loss. Aalto University researchers have a solution.
What's interesting about the new solution for power electronics is that it's based on ideas seemingly conspired to the dustbin of technology. Physicists, in revisiting previous research, have discovered a microscopic mechanism that enables the compound gallium nitride semiconductors to be used in electronic devices; devices that function to distribute large amounts of electric power.
While gallium nitride leads to powerful electronics it needs to need to process considerably more energy than comparable components. For this reason the use of gallium nitride has not been pursued. However, in a research breakthrough, scientists have discovered that the answer is to use beryllium atoms in conjunction with gallium nitride. The researchers call this process 'doping'.
This addition allows for minimal power loss and a mechanism that can dissipate heat efficiently, leading to power efficiency. According to the lead researcher, Professor Filip Tuomisto: "Our results provide valuable knowledge for experimental scientists about the fundamentals of how beryllium changes its behaviour during the manufacturing process. During it, while being subjected to high temperatures, the doped compound functions very differently than the end result."
The outcome is the promise of a new generation of energy efficient power electronics, with gallium nitride enabling much higher energy efficiency than silicon. As Professor Tuomisto adds: "The magnitude of the change in energy efficiency could as be similar as when we moved to LED lights from traditional incandescent light bulbs. It could be possible to cut down the global power consumption by up to ten per cent by cutting the energy losses in power distribution systems."
The findings have been published in the journal Physical Review Letters, with the peer review research titled "Amphoteric Be in GaN: Experimental Evidence for Switching between Substitutional and Interstitial Lattice Sites."
More about Electronics, Gallium nitride, beryllium, Power, Energy
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