Business Spotlight: Progress Accelerating at Wolfspeed

Following National Small Business Week in April, CRES Forum began highlighting the efforts that businesses of all sizes around the country have contributed to advancing clean energy technology.

Cree is a global publicly traded company headquartered in North Carolina that leads their industry in silicon carbide (SiC) power products and gallium nitride (GaN) radio frequency (RF) devices. In 2015, they announced that their Power and RF division would now be known under a new name: Wolfspeed.

Wolfspeed has made great strides since then. Their innovative techniques for developing new GaN and SiC power products hold exciting possibilities for clean energy technology.

Wolfspeed is developing silicon carbide power solutions for the private and public sectors. They have partnered with the Department of Energy to develop advanced energy project through ARPA-E. The purpose of this partnership is to further the production of advanced technology development supported by the government.

The programs that arise out of this partnership enable companies to accelerate the development and adoption of technologies involving silicon carbide power while these technologies are still in their infancy, so companies will be able to see their benefits long before they go to market.

Wolfspeed wants to push the development of these energy-saving technologies until they get to a tipping point where they are widespread and commonly used in the public and private sectors. Their goal is to get these new technologies to that tipping point.

These new programs seek to open up the space that new technology can operate in and give the technology more flexibility. With GaN and SiC power products, the power conversion in an electric car can be exponentially improved, enabling electric vehicles to go much farther than ever before. Optimizing power electronics is the driving concern here, and that translates to saving energy.

New Tech to Improve Power Electronics Applications

Power electronics means applying solid-state electronics to control and convert electric power. Silicon dominated power electronics applications during the 20th century, but silicon ICs’ uses are fading, and companies are looking to wide-bandgap (WBG) materials to service the next generation of power electronics.

SiC and GaN have emerged as frontrunners in this search, and Wolfspeed is the only player in the industry with a fully commercialized, broad portfolio of the most field-tested SiC Power and GaN RF solutions on the market.  Wolfspeed’s products increase power density and switching frequencies, while reducing the weight and size of the system, which leads to overall greater energy efficiency.

The technological might that Wolfspeed’s products bring to the industry signals big changes in electricity usage for consumers across sectors. SiC and GaN are both wide bandgap materials that are inherently suited for power electronics application. These materials feature high breakdown voltage, so they can run at higher temperatures than traditional silicon.

All kinds of industries use these materials for their power electronics needs, but they are especially important for transportation sectors. Aerospace, commercial transportation, and industrial transportation all rely heavily on power electronics. SiC and GaN products will afford these industries a significant increase in power efficiency and reliability.

A clear indication that these technologies are shaking things up is that the demand for SiC chips has skyrocketed in recent months. As electric vehicles continue to become more popular, the SiC materials needed to power them are in high demand.

Hats off to Wolfspeed for their contribution to this exciting advancement in power electronics technology. We love watching companies optimize the energy market with bold offerings positioned to drive sustainability though energy efficiency.

CRES Forum supports America’s businesses working in energy innovation, and we love the fact that it creates jobs, helps strengthen the economy, and decreases our reliance on outside energy sources.

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