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Delphi-led partnership highlights GaN-on-Silicon advanced power electronics technology at ARPA-E Summit

At last week’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, Delphi Automotive showcased the gallium nitride on silicon (GaN-on-Si) technology it is developing in partnership with International Rectifier (IR) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

The $8.4-million project funded by ARPA-E (earlier post) is creating a 600V GaN-on-Si device combined with sintered interconnects and double-sided cooling. If successful, the device will outperform existing IGBT devices by 3-5 times and enable a roadmap to reduce cost, size and energy losses by 50% for automotive applications within 5-7 years.

The goal is to develop a high power inverter with solid-state electronic switch modules that is significantly smaller and lighter, that works at higher temperatures and that reduces energy lost in the DC to AC inversion process.

—Robert Schumacher, Ph.D., general director of Advanced Engineering & Business Development

ARPA-E notes that the higher voltage market for GaN-on-Silicon is in the classic “Valley of Death” position: the basic technology and devices have been proven superior to Si-based IGBTs in the laboratory, but have not yet been packaged and proven suitable for the automotive market. Without co-investment by the government, the agency said, there is very high risk that industry competitors will not make the much greater investments required to successfully commercialize 600V GaN-on-Silicon for low-cost, high- volume production.

International Rectifier (IR) has developed a GaN-on-Silicon process compatible with standard CMOS lines utilizing 150mm (6”) wafers. Delphi has developed new packaging technologies that allow dual side cooling for higher current densities to better utilize power semiconductor devices. By combining these basic technologies, Delphi and IR are developing GaN-on-Silicon devices packaged for extracting heat from both sides of the device. The team will further develop these technologies to create a lead-free packaging solution using more reliable sintered interconnects. Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will provide key support on sintering, as well as device and system benefit characterization.

The deliverable will be a GaN-on-Si-based, electrically stable, packaged 600V depletion-mode HEMT (High Electron Mobility Transistor) power device with a second chip providing anti-parallel diode and normally-off behavior.

This activity aligns with Delphi’s project in Kokomo aimed at establishing a globally competitive facility for manufacturing power electronics. Under that project, the DOE has awarded $89.3 million in federal funds to match Delphi’s investment of $89.3 million in facilities, equipment and engineering.




" and enable a roadmap to reduce cost, size and energy losses by 50% for automotive applications within 5-7 years."

Large claim.


There are no doubts that the electronics portions will advance at a much much faster rate than batteries and other storage units (it has a much better track record). The goals set above will be met and surpassed here and abroad.


Actually, I believe this one Kelly. I've seen a few companies claiming to getting close to a lot of breakthroughs for electronics in regard to efficiency and especially size and weight based on GaN or even SiC.

Here is a good example:

Henry Gibson

There is almost no room for improvements in electronics for automobiles as the devices are already highly efficient. The cost must be lowered by mass production and competition. Hydraulic hybrids are already very efficient and fuel savings. People do not want efficiency but they demand high power large vehicles not efficiency.

Small engines with Artemis hydraulic (now Bosch) technology can be more than twice as efficient without and high power electric motors with equally or more expensive electronic controllers. ..HG..



You are missing the key point here. The efficiency gains are "nice"...going from maybe 93% efficient to 96% efficient for a component: nice.

But taking a controller unit that weighs nearly 100 pounds and reducing it to 20 pounds and making it that much smalller: REALLY NICE :-)

This announcement has not been reported very accurate because all the "green" writers and sites lock on to the part about efficiency improvments. But they miss the real advantage here.

And reducing the weight does more for the cars range than the efficiency gains in this case.


Actually the existing efficiencies are even higher, but although a increase from say 98% to 99% means almost nothing in terms of range, it means 50% less heat to dissipate. This is where the big gains are, and higher temperature operation means a smaller heat sink can be used. The whole point is cost, smaller is cheaper.


Temperature has always been the bugaboo of automotive electronics; they are one of the least heat-tolerant parts of a car. Fix that and lots of things get much cheaper.


More efficiency (from 93% towards 99%) could mean:

Less weight to lug around (up to -60+%)
Less heat to be dissipated (up to -60%), for reduced waste.
Less cost (up to -50+%) for more affordable electrified vehicles.
More durability, could last 15+ years or vehicle life time.
More interior apace for batteries, passengers and luggage.
More e-range for PHEVs and BEVs.

Affordable, efficient electrified vehicles do have have to be the size and/or weight of Hummers and other current monsters.


correction....should read vehicles do NOT have to be.....


What many seem to be missing is the fact that the energy passes through the electronics multiple times.

First it has to go into the battery, and then come back out again. So if current technology is 95% efficient, that means a total efficiency of .95 * .95 = ~90% overall efficiency. If you can get the electronics to 97%, the overall efficiency rises to 94%.

Regenerative braking is the same issue, that energy passes through the electronics twice.

So there is more to gain here than meets the eye.


Good point Anne. There are a lot of round trips here in and out of the battery pack and that % adds up.


Latest on-board wireless chargers are claimed to be 96% efficient. Since the majority of future electrified vehicles may be equipped with this, it may also have to be considered.

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