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Dec 18th, 2012
HexaTech awarded ARPA-E contract for Aluminum Nitride (AlN) high voltage power electronics
HexaTech, Inc. will develop Aluminum Nitride technology for power devices to more efficiently control the flow of electricity across high-voltage electrical lines. The future “Smart Grid” requires new high efficiency, high frequency power conversion electronics to decrease the cost of electricity transmission while increasing overall grid security and reliability. This development is the first step to establish the epitaxial growth techniques and demonstrate the superior high-voltage performance capability for AlN-based 20 kV power devices.
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HexaTech has received a $2.2 M award from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) that will enable the development of a new power semiconductor technology for the modernization of our electrical power grid. HexaTech’s high-quality Aluminum Nitride (AlN) technology was identified by the Department of Energy as a transformational, breakthrough technology with significant technical promise.

Using very low dislocation density single crystal AlN substrates, HexaTech will develop novel doping schemes and contact metals for AlN/AlGaN with high Al content. Dr. Baxter Moody, Director of Engineering said “This contract marks the beginning of a technological leap in device performance and efficiency for power semiconductors. The development will enable a significant step toward producing 20 kV AlN-based Schottky diodes (SBD, JBSD) and transistors (JFET, MOSFET). The ARPA-E contract has opened the door for the material development and research to demonstrate AlN high-voltage, high-efficiency power conversion capability.” For power systems and grid-scale power conversion applications, high efficiency AlN-based power devices will offer a significant reduction in size, weight, and cooling.

Power semiconductor devices at this level are not currently available on the market. Experimental devices based on Silicon Carbide (SiC) technology are currently being developed. Compared to SiC technology, it is expected that Aluminum Nitride will enable power electronics with a 10X improvement in performance. Based on the wide bandgap material properties of AlN, the critical field is 6X larger, the on resistance will be lower, and the resulting power device area will be smaller for a comparable power level. This is a transformational technology that will revolutionize the power distribution grid.


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