Power Electronics

Sandia is advancing power conversion system (PCS) technologies for utility-scale energy storage applications. The role of the PCS in an energy storage installation is equal parts energy conversion and control. The PCS is responsible for accomplishing the physical connection between energy storage resources and the utility interface and for controlling the exchange of electrical energy. PCS technology determines how energy storage resources are integrated into the grid and which end-use applications, services, and revenue streams they may participate in.

Dual active bridge converter prototype
Dual active bridge converter prototype

Power conversion system research at Sandia is focused on developing flexible, scalable, and highly reliable PCS to support the expanding role of energy storage in power delivery systems. Research efforts in this area range from synthesis and characterization of new power processing materials to full-scale validation of advanced converter topologies and control schemes. The diverse portfolio of projects can be broadly categorized into three areas:

  1. Advanced materials and components – Leveraging advanced material properties to fundamentally improve the performance characteristics of basic power conversion devices
  2. Circuits, topologies, and system integration strategies – Identifying optimal methods of integrating advanced components and devices to produce more efficient, more reliable, and more cost-effective power conversion circuits
  3. Models, controls, and applications – Developing new power conversion hardware architectures and intelligent control strategies to improve energy storage system performance, scalability, safety, and reliability
Custom inductor for an experimental high-frequency converter design
Standalone test enclosure for assessment of component reliability under realistic operating conditions

The power electronics program has gained international recognition for its state-of-the-art research and development. Five projects have won the prestigious R&D100 award and one Gold level in Green Tech from R&D World (formerly R&D Magazine). These projects include fiber optic current sensor, emitter turn-off thyristor, high-temperature silicon carbide (SiC) power module, Ultra-high-voltage SiC thyristor, 6.5kV enhancement-mode SiC Junction Field Effect Transistor (JFET) switch and SiC-based monolithic transistor-rectifier semiconductor switch development.

Additionally, the program has been awarded five patents and has several more pending for advanced PCS devices, control strategies, and topologies. Our team members have also had more than 70 articles published in peer-reviewed technical publications.

Stan Atcitty

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