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DOE funding to energize electric power research at Ohio State

Researchers at The Ohio State University College of Engineering are developing a new generation of direct current (DC) circuit breakers, with the potential to help transform the U.S. power system.

Professor Jin WangProfessor Jin WangLed by Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Jin Wang, the $2.3 million project is one of 12 awarded a total of $35 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Part of the Advanced Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) BREAKERS program, the selected projects aim to discover new ways of harnessing medium-voltage electricity for applications in industry, transportation, on the grid and beyond, which could greatly improve efficiency and reliability across most of the U.S. economy.

Wang’s project, “T-Type Modular DC Circuit Breaker (T-Breaker) for Future DC Networks,” will develop a medium-voltage direct-current (MVDC) circuit breaker prototype based on a modular design using silicon carbide. His team will collaborate with researchers from the United Technology Research Center to create the prototype.

Today’s power grid is primarily powered by alternating current (AC) electricity, but DC can provide lower distribution losses and higher power carrying capacity. BREAKERS projects will develop DC devices that prevent electric arcing, a safety hazard, while handling large amounts of power and voltage. Medium-voltage DC circuit breakers could enable significant improvements in the nation’s electrical system, transforming how electricity is delivered and managed across the entire power grid, as well as critical applications in industry, transportation, and resource production.

“The electric power distribution systems for buildings, data centers, electric aircrafts and ships have become more DC-based because of higher efficiency and lower cost,” said Wang. “One of the key roadblocks for wider implementations of DC-based electric power distribution is the lack of highly reliable and efficient circuit breakers. This project will create a new generation of DC circuit breakers, namely T-Breakers, with a special modular structure that allows for extremely high efficiency and reliability.”

According to Wang, the T-Breaker will provide high efficiency (99.97 percent), rapid response times (150 microseconds) and a 30,000 cycle/30-year life with high power density (65.8 MW/m3).

“By working with a leading industry partner, the technology developed from this project will find its way into future products to make future electric power networks in many applications more efficient and reliable,” he said.

To view the entire BREAKERS (Building Reliable Electronics to Achieve Kilovolt Effective Ratings Safely) project list, click here.

by Meggie Biss, College of Engineering Communications | biss.11@osu.edu