€1m US-Ireland research pact to find new ways of harnessing converted electricity

1 Apr 2015

A major research partnership involving institutes in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the US has secured €1m in funding to develop new ways of harnessing converted electricity.

The Nano-GaN Power Electronic Devices project will seek to improve the efficiency of converting electrical power by up to 25pc. 

The project, which involves Tyndall National Institute, Queen’s University Belfast and the Illinois institute of Technology has the potential to have a global impact across the entire power electronics industry.

Working with a substance called Gallium Nitride, frequently used in LED lightbulbs and space satellites, the collaborators will look to stabilise the material so it can be used to convert high voltages to more manageable levels, without the current high energy losses.

A world-changing breakthrough for electricity

Professor Peter Parbrook, Tyndall National Institute

The new technology is expected to be particularly impactful on the development of electric and hybrid vehicles.

Improving the efficiency of converting electrical power by up to 25pc would represent a huge financial saving to the consumer and could substantially reduce global carbon emissions.

This issue is of immense importance to all the countries involved in this research, with Ireland in particular importing nearly 90pc of its energy, leaving it very perceptible to changes in the international markets.

The US-Ireland Collaborative Research on Nano-GaN Power Electronic Devices (GaNnano) will be led by Prof Peter Parbrook and Anne-Marie Kelleher in Tyndall; Prof. John Shen at the Illinois Institute of Technology; and Dr Miryam Arredondo-Arechavala of Queens University Belfast.

“This will be the first time nanostructures using Gallium Nitride will be used for power electronics,” Prof Peter Parbrook, Stokes Professor of Nitride Materials & Devices at Tyndall National Institute.

“We will attempt to bend out the material’s defects, making it more stable and hence more reliable in the conversion process. It has the potential to produce significant energy saving efficiencies that will benefit people in the home and at work.”

Electricity image at top via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years