hofer powertrain and ETH Zurich initiate GaN project

12th June 2024
Sheryl Miles

hofer powertrain announced the commencement of a research project in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich), focusing on the development of a state-of-the-art multilevel Gallium Nitride (GaN) traction inverter.

Supported by a prestigious funding from INNOSUISSE, the Swiss Agency of Innovation Promotion, which advances science-based innovations in the interest of the economy and society in Switzerland. The next steps in this project will enable the pursuit of cutting-edge advancements in power electronics even further.

The core objective of the project is to rapidly develop an advanced multilevel traction inverter integrating Gallium Nitride (GaN) switches. hofer powertrain has made significant strides in developing advanced multilevel power electronics utilising Gallium Nitride (GaN) chip technology over the last four years, resulting in enhanced efficiency and power density compared to silicon-based systems. Their latest 800V GaN inverters have showcased remarkable performance in tests. The collaborative project with ETH Zurich builds on that experience to realise a revolutionary inverter solution, which aims to leverage a novel modulation scheme, operate at very high switching frequencies, and incorporate a wide array of additional pioneering features that the company has been working on in recent years.

ETH has appointed a highly qualified PhD candidate to lead the research efforts, ensuring the project benefits from fresh, innovative thinking and rigorous academic oversight. The project will be supervised by Professor Johann Biela from ETH Zurich, a renowned expert in power electronics, and Lukasz Roslaniec, the division lead of power electronics at hofer powertrain, who brings extensive industry experience to the table and has been working on these technologies proactively.

The funding from Innosuisse underscores the project's significance and potential impact in the country and the DACH-region. This financial support will facilitate the design of a new, optimised, and highly efficient three-level GaN power inverter, featuring adaptive gate drivers to improve switching controllability and further reduce energy losses. The outcome will significantly enhance the performance and efficiency of powertrain systems for modern electrified vehicles, making a substantial contribution to the future of mobility.

Dr. Lukasz Roslaniec highlights the driving force behind this project, stating: "We eagerly anticipate the fruitful collaboration with ETH, renowned for its groundbreaking work in Power Electronics and Electric Drives. We are confident that our partnership will yield solutions that are not only technologically advanced and unparalleled but also financially accessible, thereby pushing the adoption of electric vehicles and environmental sustainability in the region and beyond."

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