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Ohio State ECE research team receives $2.2 million grant for transformational energy project

(clockwise from top left) Hongping Zhao, Siddharth Rajan, Jin Wang, and Steve RingelResearchers at The Ohio State University are leading a project recently awarded $2.2 million from the Department of Energy to develop modern gallium nitride (GaN) semiconductor materials suitable for high-voltage power control and conversion.

The proposal, “GaN MOCVD Growth on Native Substrates for High Voltage (15-20 kV) Vertical Power Devices,” is one of 12 projects receiving $35 million in funding through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) OPEN+ program.

“Today’s dominant power semiconductor devices use Silicon, which suffers at high power and high temperature operations. It is absolutely critical to find alternatives to harness medium-voltage electricity infrastructure for applications across industry, transportation, on the grid and beyond,” said Hongping Zhao, associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Materials Science and Engineering (MSE). “This project aims to develop wide bandgap semiconductor GaN materials grown on native GaN substrates that enables vertical power devices with switching voltages up to 15-20 kilovolts.”

The team is led by Zhao and includes ECE and MSE professor Siddharth Rajan; ECE professor Jin Wang; and Institute for Materials Research Executive Director, Distinguished University Professor and Neal A. Smith Professor of Electrical Engineering Steven Ringel. During the three year project, Ohio State will partner with SixPoint Materials, Inc., a California-based materials manufacturer, which will focus on developing GaN substrates.

Zhao joined Ohio State in August 2017 through the IMR-led Materials and Manufacturing for Sustainability Discovery Theme. Zhao’s research interests focus on the growth and physics of wide bandgap and ultra-wide bandgap semiconductor materials and devices, and the low-dimensional semiconductor nano-materials and devices for energy applications.

In this project, Zhao’s group will develop MOCVD growth of GaN films on native GaN substrates, Rajan’s group will fabricate vertical GaN power devices, Ringel’s group will study defects in GaN films, and Wang’s group will develop packaging of GaN power devices and perform reliability testing.

The Ohio State-led team received this funding from ARPA-E’s OPEN+ program, which issues a call to scientists and engineers every three years for transformational technology proposals benefitting its mission. The 12 selected projects are part of ARPA-E’s Building Reliable Electronics to Achieve Kilovolt Effective Ratings Safely program.

The award is the second of two high-profile collaborations with Ohio State and DOE. Zhao's team recently joined a $42 million government project for innovative buildings research.

“America’s energy landscape is constantly evolving, and as new ways to generate and distribute power gain popularity, it’s critical we develop the tools to maximize their utility,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said in a Department of Energy release. “These ARPA‑E projects serve first and foremost to modernize how we move power around safely, reliably and efficiently, creating a new set of capabilities for tomorrow’s utilities and industry.”

Article by Mike Huson, IMR Public Relations Coordinator

Contact: huson.4@osu.edu

Follow: @OhioStateIMR