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Explore Energy is a cross-campus effort of the Precourt Institute for Energy.

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Efficient Electronics

Steven Abrego, Class of 2024, Electrical Engineering

This summer I have been working with Professor Rivas-Davila in the Electrical Engineering department. My contribution to the lab this summer will consist of researching the efficiency of wide-bandgap semiconductors, specifically silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors. Manufacturing datasheets and computer simulations for these devices present an electrical efficiency much lower than any efficiency measurements recorded in lab. This is due to an undocumented parasitic switching loss causing lower efficiencies. When dealing with high voltages (300 V – 600 V) at high frequencies (2 MHz – 6 MHz), these parasitic losses can have a huge impact on the efficiency of electronics, ultimately creating more energy losses throughout the grid. 

Workstation for semiconductor device testing with all necessary instruments

As I began testing these devices for their efficiency, I quickly noticed how tedious and cumbersome the testing process for these devices was. This summer, I plan to automate the entire testing process, to allow for a quicker and easier process (along with higher accuracy and less human error). Each of the instruments used in the testing process are programmable and can be controlled by a computer to record measurements as well as iterate through various tests automatically. Most of the time testing is consumed by calibrating the instruments, which can take upwards of an hour trying to achieve the necessary calibration. Automating this process will enable the calibration to be done in a matter of seconds, allowing for more devices to be tested in significantly less time. 

So far, I have truly enjoyed working with the Super-Lab. All the PhD students have been very helpful, and Professor Rivas-Davila has been very supportive this summer. I would like to thank Jia Zhuang for all the time she has spent these past few weeks walking me through the tedious testing process and for answering any questions I have had. I look forward to testing out the automation sequence at the end of the summer, and to allow for others in the lab to use this testing process to save time on testing, allowing for everyone’s time to be spent more efficiently.