Soraa Awarded Funding from DOE for GaN Power Electronics Projects

Soraa, a developer of GaN on GaN LED technology, has been awarded several million dollars in funding by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) to pursue two projects related to the development of bulk GaN (gallium nitride) substrates for power electronics. The company has been selected under the ARPA-E’s SWITCHES program to conduct the first phase of a 4 year, $3.2 million project to develop a revolutionary, U.S.-based technology for large-area, low-cost, high-quality bulk GaN substrates and to validate their performance in state-of-the-art power switches. Soraa also has an ongoing $4.75 million award from ARPA-E to develop ammonothermal bulk gallium nitride (GaN) substrates for LEDs, vertical power devices, and next-generation power electronics. Soraa is partnering with Avogy Inc., a San Jose start-up and a pioneer in the development of GaN power devices on native GaN substrates, to evaluate the new substrates for power electronics applications and develop new, high performance vertical GaN transistors.

“We are grateful for ARPA-E’s support and are very excited to extend our advanced bulk GaN substrate technology to this enormously important technology area,” says Mark D’Evelyn, principal investigator on both projects for Soraa.

“Research and development of low-cost, high quality, and large-area bulk GaN substrates is one of the critical barriers to the technological advancement of power electronics,” adds Mike Krames, CTO of Soraa. “The award of a second project by ARPA-E is a further testament to the deep technological expertise that has made us the world leader in GaN on GaN LEDs. We expect that these projects will lead to transformative, U.S.-based manufacturing and lay the groundwork for green technology leadership and sustainable manufacturing jobs in the U.S.”

“Soraa has demonstrated excellent progress developing high quality substrates for LEDs and we are hopeful that this work can be leveraged for breakthrough power electronics applications,” says Tim Heidel, ARPA-E program director.

GaN, a semiconductor material that has revolutionized solid state lighting and enabled Blu-Ray optical storage, is also an ideal material for power electronics. Compared to silicon, it can withstand much higher electric fields and operate at much higher temperatures, and promises considerably more efficient devices. Most GaN-based electronics today use non-native substrates and suffer from very high defect concentrations and reduced performance. GaN-on-GaN power electronics, based on high quality native GaN substrates, have demonstrated superior performance in power diodes and show considerable promise in power switch applications. Native GaN substrates are currently too expensive and too small for widespread application, and the two Soraa projects will help reduce costs and bring the technology to market.

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