New Nanotransistors Keep Their Cool At High Voltages

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Power converters are the little-known systems that make electricity so magical. They are what allow us to plug in our computers, lamps and televisions and turn them on in a snap. Converters transform the alternating current (AC) that comes out of wall sockets into the exact level of direct current (DC) that our electronics need. But they also tend to lose, in average, up to 20% of their energy in the process. Power converters work by using power transistors – tiny semiconductor components designed to switch on and off and withstand high voltages. Designing novel power transistors to improve the converters’ efficiency is the aim of the team of EPFL engineers. With their entirely new transistor design, based on the counterintuitive application of nanoscale structures for high voltage applications, much less heat is lost during the conversion process, making the transistors especially well-suited to high-power applications like electric vehicles and solar panels.

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