Aluminium-based semiconductors promise even greater efficiency

December 02, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Aluminium-based semiconductors promise even greater efficiency
Highly efficient power semiconductors should create the conditions for a wide range of new applications from electromobility to artificial intelligence. This is the aim of the recently launched joint project "Power transistors based on AlN (ForMikro-LeitBAN)", which is coordinated by the Ferdinand-Braun-Institut for highest frequency technologies in Berlin.

In Europe alone, it is estimated that more than three terawatt hours of energy are lost each year in the conversion of electrical energy - for example when converting the mains voltage to the low DC voltage for the operation of electronic circuits. This corresponds to the amount of electricity produced by a medium-sized coal-fired power plant. The efficient conversion of energy thus becomes the key for applications in industry 4.0, KI and Co. The "ForMikro-LeitBAN" project is researching technological measures to further increase efficiency and thus conserve resources. This requires efficient switching power semiconductors that enable a high energy density. If they were used on a large scale, energy savings would be noticeable. They could thus make a relevant contribution to CO2 reduction.

The project aims to develop aluminium nitride as a new semiconductor material for this task, test it on suitable components and qualify it for future applications in systems. This is because conventional silicon-based power components are making it increasingly difficult to increase the efficiency of electrical converters and power amplifiers. New semiconductor materials with improved properties must therefore be researched and brought to market maturity. The project partners rely on aluminium nitride (AlN). The semiconductor material, which has so far been little researched for electronic applications, offers up to 10,000 times less transmission loss than silicon components.

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