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NC State tapped to lead Department of Energy institute

President Barack Obama addresses a partisan Wolfpack crowd.
President Barack Obama addresses a partisan Wolfpack crowd.
President Barack Obama flashes the "wuf" sign after speaking on the NC State campus.
President Barack Obama flashes the “wuf” sign after speaking on the NC State campus.

Engineers at NC State University have long been leaders in the development of leading-edge energy technology, and now they will lead a new US Department of Energy advanced manufacturing institute.

During a visit to Raleigh on Jan.15, President Barack Obama announced that NC State will lead the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute, a $140 million project that aims to further development and manufacturing of wide bandgap semiconductors.

The College of Engineering at NC State is at the forefront of research on wide bandgap semiconductors, which have higher temperature and voltage capacity than the silicon semiconductors that have been widely used for the last 50 years. That greater efficiency will make everything from household electronics to the nation’s power grid more efficient.

“I believe the wide bandgap semiconductor technology is the next big step in power electronics,” said Dr. Jayant Baliga, Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at NC State and one of the world’s preeminent researchers in the area of power semiconductor devices.

Baliga is founder of the university’s Power Semiconductor Research Center and is the inventor of the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor, an innovation credited with saving consumers more than $15 trillion in energy costs.

College researchers have been working on wide bandgap semiconductors since the early 1980s. Engineering faculty members have been part of two Multidisciplinary University Research Initiatives focused on conducting research into wide bandgap semiconductors. As part of those efforts, NC State engineers have worked with other universities and the US Naval and Air Force Research Labs.

The National Science Foundation FREEDM Systems Center, an Engineering Research Center that was awarded in 2008, is headquartered on NC State’s Centennial Campus. FREEDM is developing the next-generation power grid that will be more efficient and will incorporate renewable energy. Wide bandgap semiconductor technology will play a major role in making that new power grid work.

Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of the College of Engineering at NC State, said the College’s work in semiconductors and the devices they power has been a long process that has paid off.

“As we often say, there’s no such thing as an overnight success,” Martin-Vega said. “There’s been so much work that has gone on over the years to build up the capacity and the expertise that allows NC State to be the leader in an effort of this nature.”

Learn more about the Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute and NC State’s role at