Clean Energy Partnerships
4:00 am
Fri January 31, 2014

Charging Up Innovation

A power-supply (front) on a chip prototype developed at Virginia Tech is 10 times smaller than today's commercial technology. The smaller size and improved efficiency of wide bandgap devices promises significant energy savings.
Credit Christina O'Connor.

Virginia Tech is one of seven partners selected for a nationwide push to create manufacturing hubs, which President Barak Obama mentioned in his state of the Union Address this week. 

Tech just found out it was selected for the government/ private sector partnership for the President’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute, headquartered at North Carolina State University.

As Robbie Harris reports, Tech will focus on energy efficiency for electronic devices.

Dushan Boroyevich, Professor of Electrical Engineering
Credit Virginia Tech

How many devices do you plug in every day?  Every smart phone, laptop and many other portables use power electronics to convert electricity from the outlet into the proper mode for the device to operate.

Professor of Electrical Engineering at Virginia Tech, Dushan Boroyevich is part of a team that will head up the effort to improve those little black boxes. "All the common people today deal with power electronics and probably don’t like it very much.  All the adapters or chargers for their smart phones and computers the thing that you plug in the wall, the black boxes that you have to carry around, inside that box is electronic power converter."

Silicon, which has lent its name to not only to a certain valley in California but an entire industry, no longer efficient enough for the task of converting this electricity for new device.

Boroyevich and his team will work with a relatively new device called a Wide Band gap semiconductor, which may be able to do the electricity conversion more efficiently, saving energy.  They’ll work closely with this region’s hub in North Carolina and industrial partners who also contribute expertise and resources.