Small Switch Offers Big Promise

New high-power switches measuring only one square centimeter offer the promise of significantly improving the advanced power electronics used to control bulk electricity flow. Initial applications include motor drives for industrial plants, with later use anticipated in the thyristors used in flexible AC transmission-system devices controlling high-voltage electricity transmission.

03/01/2005


New high-power switches measuring only one square centimeter offer the promise of significantly improving the advanced power electronics used to control bulk electricity flow. Initial applications include motor drives for industrial plants, with later use anticipated in the thyristors used in flexible AC transmission-system devices controlling high-voltage electricity transmission.

Though the silicon-carbide crystal technology they incorporate isn't new, its development had been hindered by the quality of available silicon-carbide crystals, according to John Palmour , executive vice president of manufacturer Cree, Inc. The new switches can operate at higher temperatures and support voltage gradients up to 10 times higher than traditional silicon, with thermal conductivity slightly better than copper.

The switch was developed by researchers at the Electric Power Research Institute , who anticipate the new units will enable smaller, less-expensive power-electronics devices, with fewer moving parts than their silicon-based counterparts.





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