Power Electronics

Technical Applications


Just as low-power integrated circuits have revolutionized communications equipment, high-power semiconductor devices will profoundly change electricity transmission and distribution networks. Solid-state electronic switches, circuit breakers, and controllers offer significant improvements in efficiency, reliability and flexibility of the U.S. electric power grid. They increase the carrying capacity of existing power lines and permit power transmission over longer distances, thus permitting more efficient matches of electricity supply and demand.


Improved power electronics make an important contribution to job creation and economic growth by increasing efficiency of power distribution systems. The largest economic impact is on the utilities industry because improved power electronics allow the industry to efficiently manage utility grids, especially with numerous dispersed generating sources. This technology is likely to have a significant positive impact on the U.S. international trade balance because of large existing and projected world markets for power generation and distribution equipment. Power electronics are also a critical component of the "clean car," contributing to success of the PNGV and potential improvements in the worldwide position of the U.S. automobile industry


The United States is behind in high-power, solid-state switch technology except for a few niche areas. The United States buys most of its high-power switches from foreign companies. Europe (Switzerland and the United Kingdom) and Japan lead in thyristors, Japan and Germany in insulated gate bipolar transistors, and Russia in dynistors.