The power electronics research community is balancing on the edge of a game-changing technological innovation: As silicon (Si) semiconductors—traditionally employed for the conversion, control and processing of electric power—approach their material limitations, next-generation wide bandgap (WBG) electronics are poised to overtake them.
WBG power electronics can operate at higher voltages, temperatures, and switching frequencies, with greater efficiency, than existing Si devices.
"These characteristics can reduce energy consumption, which is critical for national economic, health, and security interests," says ECE's Mona Ghassemi, an assistant professor. Ghassemi focuses on high-field dielectrics and electrical insulation materials and systems.
Incorporating WBG devices in high-voltage applications requires analysis of a wide range of behaviors, innovative packaging and designs, and updated modeling capabilities.
In her analysis work, Ghassemi is investigating how WBG electronics handle high electric stress and control partial discharges in high voltage high-density environments. She is also conducting WBG electrical insulation failure analysis.
Results from her analysis will drive design and implementation changes, and Ghassemi is also exploring WBG semiconductor packaging technology designs. Semiconductor packaging protects power electronics from damage and supports electrical connections between the device and the circuit board. As chips evolve, and rely more heavily on WBG technology, chip packaging design must keep abreast of the changes, she explains. She is specifically working on packaging technology that allows researchers to better exploit WBG materials' ability to withstand high blocking voltage, high power density, high frequencies, and high temperatures.
Ghassemi is seeking methods to increase voltage-blocking capability. Together with improved packaging, this can help control the local electric field that may otherwise become large enough to raise partial discharges within the module.