WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Electricity (OE) today launched the American-Made Silicon Carbide (SiC)  Packaging Prize. This $2.25 million contest invites competitors to propose, design, build, and test state-of-the-art SiC semiconductor packaging prototypes to enable these devices to work more effectively in high-voltage environments such as energy storage. The prize is part of the American-Made Challenges program, which fosters collaboration between our nation’s entrepreneurs and innovators, DOE’s National Labs, and the private sector.

Semiconductors control and manage the flow of electric currents in electronic equipment and devices such as mobile phones, laptop computers, and digital cameras. Silicon carbide is used as the raw material for semiconductors because it can withstand high electricity voltage fluctuations and temperatures. While SiC semiconductors can handle these conditions, conventional packaging for them overheats, limiting their performance in electronic equipment. Improved packaging will allow for greater SiC semiconductor applications which will be key to advancing the clean energy transition.

“Silicon Carbide has become a mature and widely used technology for systems requiring power delivery, particularly charging and discharging in energy storage applications like electric vehicle charging and solar systems with batteries,” said Gene Rodrigues, Assistant Secretary for Electricity. “This new competition from the Office of Electricity incentivizes researchers to develop innovative packaging techniques to enhance the performance of this technology and increase its availability.”

To enable these devices to work most effectively and to advance energy storage of renewable energy generation, SiC power modules need to be expanded to higher voltage and higher current ratings. The SiC Semiconductor Prize offers a total prize pool of $2.25 million across three phases:

  • Phase 1 – Design Study In this phase, prize participants will describe their team, plan to make progress toward developing SiC semiconductor packaging and showcase any prototypes. As part of this phase, participants will show evidence of a design prototype that meets or exceeds Phase 2 metrics. Up to 10 winning teams will receive $50,000 each and will be eligible to compete in Phase 2. Up to 10 winning teams will receive $50,000 each and will be eligible to compete in Phase 2. (Total prize pool: $500,000)
  • Phase 2 – Initial Demonstration: In Phase 2, winning teams from Phase 1 will develop a physical prototype of their SiC packaging solution that meets Phase 2 metrics. In this phase, teams must send their prototypes to a national lab for testing to validate the metrics achieved. At the end of Phase 2, four winning teams will receive $250,000 each and become eligible to compete in Phase 3. (Total prize pool: $1 million)
  • Phase 3 – Final Demonstration: In Phase 3, teams from Phase 2 will continue the development of their SiC packaging solution and showcase their working prototypes. In this phase, teams will work to achieve the high voltage and high current targes while continuing to innovate towards an improvement in packaging. In Phase 3, one winning team will be named Grand Prize winner and be awarded $750,000. (Total prize pool: $750,000)

The competition is open only to private entities (for-profits and nonprofits); non-federal government entities such as states, counties, tribes, and municipalities, academic institutions; and individuals. Submissions are due by August 30, 2024. 

To learn more about entry requirements, follow the prize on HeroX, and join the prize team on March 20 for an informational webinar covering key prize details and important submission details.

This competition is part of OE’s mission to ensure that the American people are served by a 21st century power grid that is resilient, reliable, secure, and affordable.

Since the American-Made Challenges prize program launched in 2018 to support U.S. entrepreneurship and innovation in clean energy, DOE has awarded more than $400 million in cash prizes and incentives to competitors in more than 60 prizes spanning solar, water, geothermal, buildings, hydrogen, energy storage, transportation, technology transitions, manufacturing, and more.

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