01-September-2022

Marelli Motorsport and Politecnico di Torino cooperate on Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology developments for high voltage power converters

Marelli Motorsport – the Motorsport business unit of the global automotive supplier Marelli, with an extensive experience in the development of hybrid and electric systems for major motorsport championships – and the Power Electronics Innovation Center (PEIC) of Politecnico di Torino are announcing a new collaboration, regarding the Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology area for power electronics, aimed at electric engines. The project is included in a wider framework research partnership between Marelli and Politecnico.

The collaboration is aiming at the design and prototyping of an innovative multi-level 900V high power inverter for electric traction based on GaN technology.

Gallium Nitride, a cutting-edge technology reaching unprecedented switching frequencies and low switching energy, allows a radical reduction of passive components (e.g. inductors, capacitors, transformers), while maintaining an outstanding efficiency. In the last years, the GaN technology has been evolving rapidly in terms of conduction and switching performance. In addition, since the lateral GaN devices are grown on standard silicon wafers, their cost is already highly competitive.

GaN technology opens new horizons in the power converter design innovations, in which the collaboration has the aim to excel in terms of high efficiency multilevel architectures, optimal and robust gate driving and device parallelization, high frequency and high temperature capacitor technologies, integration of capacitors and semiconductors on PCB (Printed Circuit Board) for cost reduction, advanced cooling solutions.

“The collaboration with Politecnico di Torino is enabling a more rapid pace of development with respect to innovative Wide-Bandgap technology applied to power converters.” said Riccardo De Filippi, Head of Marelli Motorsport. “In particular, GaN is proving to be very promising for what concerns high frequency switching devices, even at very high voltage and power levels. It looks like the new technology can have a bright future in the automotive electrification market.”

Radu Bojoi, Politecnico di Torino, chairman of  Power Electronics Innovation Center (PEIC), commented: “The collaboration with Marelli is a further demonstration of the multiple benefits and synergies possible between University and Industry when they join forces in fast tracking new technologies into cutting edge device development.”

The concept study started back in 2021 and at present it is in the prototyping phase, which is planning to undergo two development steps withing 2022. The GaN component supplier selected for the prototype phase is VisIC Technologies, a global leader in gallium nitride (GaN) solutions for high-voltage automotive applications.

“The project with Marelli and PEIC for the development of gallium nitride-based multi-level-power inverters in electric vehicles illustrates the break-through of gallium nitride technology in the automotive industry,” said Tamara Baksht, CEO of VisIC. “VisIC’s D3GaN technology was developed for the high reliability standards of the automotive industry and offers the lowest losses per RDS(on). It also simplifies the system solution and enables high-efficiency and affordable power train solutions. It is definitely the next step for the automotive electrical driveline.”

Beyond the motorsport domain, which is always at the forefront of innovation thanks to its capability to design and test technologies in a fast way and challenging conditions, the know-how and technologies developed in the frame of this collaboration, for Marelli will be crucial also to enable a technological flow-down to series production technologies.