High-efficiency energy conversion and innovative power electronics for the future. The JOANNEUM Power Electronics Center (JPEC) conducts research into minimising the energy loss between power station and wall sockets by means of ultra compact power electronics components with the aim of increasing the efficiency of electricity transmission.
Electrical energy undergoes many conversions from production to wall sockets, and each time energy is lost. Due to this, for instance, only approx. 50% of the energy from a wind farm actually arrives at the end user. Losses from these conversions have been continually reduced in the last decades, but they still amount to a high percentage of global electricity consumption.
Storage systems to balance out increasing fluctuations – e.g. through the integration of renewable sources – lead to additional conversion levels. This makes the use of high-efficiency power electronics ever more urgent. The increasingly available “wide-band gap” power semiconductors (based on gallium nitride and silicon carbide) enable markedly higher efficiency levels to be achieved at more compact sizes. A successful market penetration of these energy-saving devices requires a whole range of technical solutions in addition to lower prices.
Comprehensive optimisation of power semiconductors
The JOANNEUM Power Electronics Center has been concentrating on a comprehensive optimisation approach in relation to topologies, filters (including electromagnetic compatibility, EMC), advanced packaging and the associated dynamic controls on the basis of a combination of high-performance microprocessors and configurable logic (FPGA). The design of a highly efficient driver chip for eGaN® transistors should finally complement the approach to comprehensive circuit optimisation and, on top of this, support the formation of a strategic focus within the existing chip design group.
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The implementation phase of the JOANNEUM Power Electronics Center, sponsored as a Research Studio Austria by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), will include building demonstrators to prove the practical applicability of the concepts, simulations and designs. “Of course we want to carry out long-term research in this promising field. And we want to demonstrate how much energy can be saved and persuade industry to invest in new technologies and bring them to market,” says project manager Christian Netzberger.