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DOE Extends Commitment to Enhanced Semiconductors Through PowerAmerica Institute Renewal

Continued investment in wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technologies helps accelerate more powerful, energy efficient power electronics that drive electrification and emissions reductions across the economy

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office (AMMTO) announced renewed funding for PowerAmerica, DOE’s first Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute. PowerAmerica will receive an initial $8 million, with potential funding across four more fiscal years to follow, to continue advancing domestic manufacturing of next-generation WBG semiconductors for power electronics to aid economy-wide decarbonization and electrification. 

WBG semiconductors use cutting-edge materials that enable power electronics that are used in a range of applications—including industrial equipment, data centers, consumer devices, electric vehicles, and more. Silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) WBG semiconductor technology makes the power electronic modules significantly more powerful and energy efficient than those made from conventional semiconductor materials, namely silicon. These high-performance power electronics can increase electric vehicle driving range; help integrate renewable energy into the electric grid; and lead to significant energy savings.

“The work PowerAmerica—and its 82 member organizations spanning industry, academia, and national labs—is doing to galvanize commercialization of high-performance power electronics is invaluable to our clean energy future,” said AMMTO Director Chris Saldaña. “PowerAmerica has catalyzed an innovation ecosystem that touches nearly every sector up and down each supply chain.”

Raleigh-based PowerAmerica commercialized more than 10 WBG technologies over five years. To date, 40 percent of PowerAmerica’s 60 projects have reached or are set to reach commercial status.

Not only is PowerAmerica innovating semiconductors that surpass operational limitations of traditional silicon-based designs, but it also focuses on training the future workforce of America’s manufacturing sector through its strong education and workforce development (EWD) program. Since launching in 2014, PowerAmerica has trained more than; 400 masters and PhD students, 300 short course attendees, 1,800 tutorial participants, and 9,000 K-12 students in STEM programs, including 2,000 participants of hands-on trainings. These numbers are particularly important in addressing the acute workforce shortage the power electronics industry faces, and scaling up PowerAmerica’s existing EWD program is a proposed focus of the new federal funding.

This federal funding builds upon initial federal funding of $70 million, in addition to $81 million in cost share from its member partners, for a total of $151 million.