2 September 2022
Marelli and Politecnico di Torino co-developing GaN for high-voltage power converters
Marelli Motorsport – the motorsport business unit of automotive supplier Marelli, (which has extensive experience of developing hybrid and electric systems) – and the Power Electronics Innovation Center (PEIC) of Italy’s Politecnico di Torino have announced a new collaboration on gallium nitride (GaN) technology for power electronics, targeting electric engines. The project is included in a wider framework research partnership between Marelli and Politecnico.
The collaboration is aimed at the design and prototyping of an innovative multi-level 900V high-power inverter for electric traction based on GaN technology.
GaN, which can reach unprecedented switching frequencies and low switching energy, allows a radical reduction of passive components (e.g. inductors, capacitors, transformers) while maintaining outstanding efficiency. In the last few years, GaN technology has been evolving rapidly in terms of conduction and switching performance. In addition, since lateral GaN devices are grown on standard silicon wafers, their cost is already highly competitive.
GaN technology is said to open new horizons in power converter design innovation, in which the collaboration has the aim to excel in terms of high-efficiency multi-level architectures, optimal and robust gate driving and device parallelization, high-frequency and high-temperature capacitor technologies, integration of capacitors and semiconductors on printed-circuit boards for cost reduction, advanced cooling solutions.
“The collaboration with Politecnico di Torino is enabling a more rapid pace of development with respect to innovative wide-bandgap technology applied to power converters,” says Riccardo De Filippi, head of Marelli Motorsport. “In particular, GaN is proving to be very promising for what concerns high-frequency switching devices, even at very high voltage and power levels. It looks like the new technology can have a bright future in the automotive electrification market,” he adds.
“The collaboration with Marelli is a further demonstration of the multiple benefits and synergies possible between university and industry when they join forces in fast tracking new technologies into cutting-edge device development,” comments PEIC chairman Radu Bojoi.
The concept study started back in 2021 and, at present, it is in the prototyping phase, which is planning to undergo two development steps in 2022. The GaN component supplier selected for the prototype phase is VisIC Technologies Ltd of Ness Ziona, Israel.
“The project with Marelli and PEIC for the development of GaN-based multi-level-power inverters in electric vehicles illustrates the breakthrough of gallium nitride technology in the automotive industry,” says VisIC’s CEO Tamara Baksht. “VisIC’s D3GaN technology was developed for the high reliability standards of the automotive industry and offers the lowest losses per RDS(on). It also simplifies the system solution and enables high-efficiency and affordable power-train solutions,” he adds. “It is definitely the next step for the automotive electrical driveline.”
Beyond the motorsport domain (which is always at the forefront of innovation due to its capability to design and test technologies in a fast way and under challenging conditions), the know-how and technologies developed in the frame of this collaboration for Marelli will be crucial also for enabling a technological flow-down to series production technologies.