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Mazumder receives semiconductor research grant

power lines against a blue sky

Distinguished Professor Sudip K. Mazumder is co-principal investigator  on a team that has been awarded a $2,847,754 grant to help modernize the nation’s power grid.

The Department of Energy announced the semiconductor research grant in February. It is part of the agency’s ARPA-E Unlocking Lasting Transformative Resiliency Advances by Faster Actuation of Power Semiconductor Technologies, or ULTRAFAST, program. The award is part of $48 million in ULTRAFAST-funded projects that support the development of next-generation, ultrafast power semiconductors for advanced system-level power electronics converters.

Led by the University of Buffalo’s Professor Uttam Singisetti, the team includes co-PI’s Mazumder, professor of electrical and computer engineering at UIC, Hongping Zhao, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Ohio State, and Xiu Yao, associate professor of electrical engineering at the University of Buffalo. Mazumder’s share of the grant is $712,500.

Upgrades are needed to improve the efficiency of the nation’s aging power grid, which is also burdened by an increasing number of severe weather events, cyber threats, and physical threats, which result in power disruptions. The Department of Energy estimates these disturbances cost the U.S. over $150 billion each year.

“This project, as well as the ULTRAFAST ARPA-E program, have been motivated in part by the foundational work on photonic device and power-electronic systems control I started about 20 years back,”  Mazumder said.

The grid is also facing higher demands for electricity as decarbonization technologies are deployed. Improving the grid could allow future green autonomous power distribution systems such as those for electric vehicles, all-electric aviation, and more.

The team is developing an optically controlled high voltage power-switching device for enhanced resiliency, reliability, and control of power flow in grid applications. The proposed switches would be made of the ultrawide-bandgap material beta-gallium oxide, which offers benefits including high breakdown strength, scalable melt-grown substrates, and ease of material processing.

“This project will develop the world’s first 20 kV optically controlled ultrafast (100 A/ns, 250 V/ns) Ga2O3 MOSFET. UIC will design and develop optical semiconductor device control hardware and conduct experimental validation.” Mazumder said.

Mazumder has over 30 years of professional experience and has made original contributions to the areas of multi-scale control of wide-bandgap power-electronic systems at the semiconductor device level for wide-ranging applications in the commercial and defense spaces; SiC and GaN-based high-frequency-link power electronics, including hybrid-modulation-based pulsating-dc-link inverter, zero-ripple-filter-based inverter, and differential-mode-converter topologies for applications encompassing but not limited to renewable and alternative energy, electric vehicles, solid-state transformer, energy storage, and offshore wind; discretized high-frequency and Boolean energy and data transfer; and optically-controlled power semiconductor devices and power electronics.

Mazumder is the director of the Laboratory for Energy and Switching Electronic Systems at UIC, has been awarded over a dozen patents, and has been supported by 63 grants.