Schenectady County

Silicon carbide makes devices smaller, faster

The goal of the New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium is to develop next-generation te

The goal of the New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium is to develop next-generation technology that will make devices smaller, faster and more efficient.

General Electric, GlobalFoundries, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and other businesses are teaming to develop more advanced power electronics.

How will they do that? Silicon carbide.

Silicon carbide power semiconductor devices operate at higher efficiency, higher temperature and higher frequencies compared with traditional silicon-based technology.

What does that mean? Cost savings.

The technology will lead to energy savings for industries, including aviation and health care. The silicon carbide devices can also be half the size of similar silicon devices.

Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, said it takes “an incredible amount of capital” to commercialize these technologies, and the consortium is a solution to that problem. It will enable 100 businesses to share equipment and space for high volume manufacturing.

General Electric will lead the consortium and is contributing $100 million on top of the state’s $135 million commitment. The GE Global Research center already focuses on silicon carbide technology.

“It’s esoteric for the person on the street, but this is going to be the hub of creating industries and jobs in the future,” Immelt said, “so you have to feel great about this step we are making today.”

The consortium will be housed in Albany at the nanocollege campus, where 6-inch silicon carbide wafers will be developed and companies will partner on research and development.

The public-private partnership mirrors the nanocollege’s Global 450 Consortium, which is also housed on campus. GlobalFoundries, IBM, Intel, Samsung and TSMC are part of that consortium, working together to transform the way computer chips are manufactured.

“We will have the first silicon carbide fab line in the United States on six-inch wafers,” said Alain Kaloyeros, president and CEO of the nanocollege. “It will commercialize power electronic devices used in solar, wind, medium-voltage drivers and smart grid among many, many applications.”

Avionics — the electronic systems used on aircraft — will be one of the first applications for the silicon carbide devices produced by the consortium. Immelt said the technology would transform the aviation industry.

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