Triad company to play role in power electronics innovation highlighted by Obama

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A Triad high-tech company will play a role in helping develop semiconductor chips needed to efficiently operate the next generation of power electronics.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that N.C. State University will receive a five-year, $70 million contract from the U.S. Energy Department for its Next Generation Power Electronics Innovation Institute.

The semiconductor products, such as RF Micro’s Gallium Nitride-based devices, are projected to aid in improving the reliability and efficiency of next generation power electronics serving the nation’s power grid.

RF Micro Devices Inc., based in Greensboro, already serves as a design and development partner to the NCSU institute.

The company, which makes microchips and chip assemblies for the cellphone and tablet market, said it will offer production services, known as an open foundry, in Greensboro to support the NCSU program and accelerate the development of key wide bandgap semiconductor products. A foundry is where metal is melted and poured into molds, or in which metal castings are produced.

Company officials were invited to meet with Obama while he was in Raleigh to announce the contract award.

RF Micro has about 1,500 employees in Guilford County, according to its latest disclosed workforce figure.

The company could not be reached for immediate comment on whether it expects to add employees as part of its participation, or what level of additional revenue the partnership will produce.

“This government-sponsored award underscores RF Micro’s commitment to technology and product leadership, and will benefit the entire power electronics industry as it transitions to clean, more efficient energy,” Bob Bruggeworth, RF Micro’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

Wide bandgap semiconductors would be used in personal devices, electric vehicles, renewable power interconnection, industrial-scale variable speed drive motors and within the power grid.

Because those semiconductors operate at high temperatures, frequencies and voltages, they have the potential to eliminate up to 90 percent of the power losses in electricity conversion compared to current technology.

As a result, power electronics could be made smaller because they would need fewer semiconductor chips.

The goal is producing more affordable products for businesses and consumers, leading to billions of dollars in energy savings and more high-quality U.S. manufacturing jobs, according to the Obama administration.

The institute is being comprised of 18 businesses and six universities, led by NCSU. It was chosen to participate in part because of higher education and internship programs aimed at power electronics manufacturing.

Other participating universities are UNC Chapel Hill, Arizona State, University of California at Santa Barbara, Florida State , Virginia Tech and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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Story Source: The above story was Published by Journal Now, January 15 2014.