Choi receives Air Force Young Investigator grant to explore ultra-wide bandgap technology
Oct. 31, 2016
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.-- Sukwon Choi, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was just awarded the prestigious Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) Young Investigator award to conduct thermal and mechanical investigation of ultra-wide bandgap materials and devices.
Ultra-wide bandgap (UWBG) materials such as aluminum gallium nitride and gallium oxide can potentially revolutionize the performance of the electric power grid and help meet the aviation and automotive industries’ need to use less energy and protect the environment. For example, the use of UWBG materials instead of silicon (the backbone of the power semiconductor industry) can potentially reduce the energy loss that occurs between generating electricity and transmitting it to a home or business.
Superior material properties of UWBG semiconductors allow a reduction in the size of bulky passive elements built in to power handling systems that convert electrical energy from one form to another, for example, from AC to DC current. Therefore, UWBG devices could lead to more efficient, smaller, and less expensive systems. If electric vehicles could utilize the potential of UWBG power electronics that withstand higher temperatures better than silicon, they will not need large radiators, resulting in lighter cars. This can reduce the system complexity and improve the vehicle range.
Choi’s research addresses one of the biggest challenges in the development of generation-after-next UWBG power conversion systems, which is the electro-thermo-mechanical interaction occurring in the materials system. His group will develop state-of-the-art optical metrology techniques to measure the temperature rise and evolution of stress occurring in ultra-wide bandgap power electronic devices. He and his students will build fully-coupled 3-D multi-physics models to help understand how those interactions can change the device performance and reliability.
“I am very glad to have been chosen for this grant. The AFOSR award will provide students with opportunities to perform cutting-edge research at the borderline of mechanical, electrical, and material science and engineering fields. The research it supports will have many benefits in reducing energy costs and protecting the environment,” Choi said. “In addition, my group will contribute to the missions of the U.S. Air Force in the area of high power radio frequency and power electronic applications.”
The Air Force YIPs are to foster creative basic research in science and engineering, enhance early career development of outstanding young investigators, and increase opportunities for the young investigators to recognize the Air Force mission and the related challenges in science and engineering. In total, the AFOSR awarded $20.8 million in grants to 58 scientists and engineers from 41 research institutions and small businesses across the U.S. in the 2016 competition.
Choi has been an assistant professor in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Penn State since August 2015. He directs the Thermal Characterization Laboratory and teaches elementary and advanced thermodynamics. He received his doctorate from Georgia Tech in mechanical engineering and was a post-doctoral researcher at Sandia National Laboratories.