Power challenge offers £2,000 prize to electronics researchers

UK postgraduates working on research in power electronics that will help accelerate the use of gallium nitride transistors can enter a new competition worth £2,000 to the winner.

The annual contest, known as the Geoff Haynes Future Power Challenge, has been established by manufacturer GaN Systems together with the EPSRC Centre for Power Electronics. It marks the recent retirement of the company’s founder and VP Geoff Haynes, and recognises his contribution to the formative gallium nitride power industry.

Over the last few years, increasing availability and maturity of silicon carbide (SiC) transistors has driven research into applications of wideband switches that are not practical using silicon devices. The benefits are now starting to be adopted in production systems operating at 1200V and higher.

For applications operating between 100V and 1000V, the prospect of low-cost gallium nitride (GaN) on silicon Si switches has been driving process development, but only recently have multiple sources of stable, robust, transistors with blocking voltages of 650V been available for general sale. It’s expected that making their unique advantages a focus for research into fast converter applications capable of achieving compelling advances in system performance and cost will drive the manufacturing volume required to meet cost expectations and underwrite wideband semiconductors as a mainstream technology.

In the past year, GaN Systems has introduced to production two families of its GaNPX normally-off transistors housed in embedded, almost chip-scale packages, optimised for low inductance and low thermal resistance. To achieve their full value in production systems however, there are key enabling issues that still need to be addressed.

The Geoff Haynes Challenge is open to any paper or poster submitted to the EPSRC Centre for Power Electronics’ 2016 Postgraduate summer school, due to be held at the National College in Nottingham on 1 and 2 June this year. Work that clearly identifies research relevant to accelerating the use of GaN components in applications with performance that can't be achieved using existing silicon technology will qualify.

Entries will be judges by a panel of academic and industrial experts and the prize awarded at the Centre’s annual conference on the 5 and 6 July 2016. In view of the limited timescale, relevant work in pre-existing projects using SiC technology will also qualify where demonstration or simulation shows its relevance to a future GaN-based solution. The judges will select a short list of projects for presentation at the event, from which the winner will be chosen.

According to Geoff Haynes, the objective of the challenge in its first year is to stimulate awareness amongst the UK’s postgraduate student community of the emergence of first viable GaN on Si production transistors. “The timescale is limited, but the intention is not to create an application of world beating performance,” he said. "Realising systems that take the full advantage of the switching speed and power densities that these transistors are capable of presents many challenges for research and development across a wide range of subject areas. Showing how existing work in the suggested areas can be re-focused to address some of these and why that is important can be very relevant.”

To enter contact Michelle.Fusco@nottingham.ac.uk.

Device characteristics and models for the entire GaNPX family

Information about the EPSRC Centre for Power Electronics and its activities

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