NC State to lead new research institute

Jan. 15, 2014 @ 08:55 AM

President Barack Obama is expected to announce today that a group of businesses and universities, led by N.C. State University, has been selected to lead a manufacturing institute focused on next-generation power electronics.

According to a news release from the White House Office of the Press Secretary, the president proposed creating the institutes during his State of the Union address last year. In May, he launched a competition for the selection of the three new institutes with a $200 million federal funding commitment from five federal agencies.

The institutes are expected to help bridge the gap between applied research and product development by bringing companies, universities, agencies and others together to invest in technology that encourages investment and production in the United States.

The institute to be led by N.C. State will focus on making wide bandgap semi-conductor technologies cost-competitive with current, silicon-based power electronics. According to the release, wide bandgap semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures and have greater durability and reliability at higher voltages and frequencies, allowing for better performance while using less electricity.

The technologies would power electronic devices such as motors, consumer electronics and devices to make them faster, smaller and more efficient.

The Raleigh-based institute is expected to provide shared facilities, equipment, and testing and modeling capabilities to companies, particularly to small and medium-sized manufacturers, to help invent, design and manufacture new semiconductor chips and devices.

It’s also expected to allow for the pairing of chip designers and manufacturers with large power electronic manufacturers and supplier to help bring technologies to market faster.

The U.S. Department of Energy is awarding $70 million across five years for the institute. That has to be matched by at least $70 million in non-federal commitments.

The institute includes the state of North Carolina and 18 companies including Durham-based Cree. The president’s schedule today includes a tour at a Research Triangle Park-based research and development office of Vacon Inc. and a speech at N.C. State.