GE, SUNY Poly reach power chip milestone

SUNY Polytechnic Institute and General Electric Co. announced Thursday that they had successfully produced the first patterned wafers from their $500 million partnership to make a power electronics chips using silicon carbide material.

The milestone is an enormous step forward in a partnership that had seemed to be on the verge of collapse over the summer amid the corruption investigation at SUNY Poly that resulted in the arrest of its president, Alain Kaloyeros.

New York state committed $135 million to the program, which is processing 150 millimeter wafers on a new $25 million production line built at SUNY Poly’s Albany campus using GE technology.

However, over the summer, contractors walked off the site during the middle of construction, upset they had not been paid for months.

The state later resumed payments after clearing up issues with invoices and other documentation that were needed as state agencies put into place new reporting requirements developed in the wake of the investigation.

Kaloyeros, who has denied any wrongdoing, resigned in October. He was replaced by Bahgat Sammakia, a former IBM executive who was vice president of research at Binghamton University.

Power electronics chips are used to regulate electricity in everything from electric vehicles to wind turbines and airplanes.

Typically these chips are made of silicon, but silicon carbide, a much more durable material, can greatly reduce power loss and boost heat resistance, greatly improving the cost and weight of such devices. The aim of the partnership, the New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium, is to develop a mass-scale manufacturing method for the chips, which would put New York state at the forefront of the technology.

“We are proud that the New York Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium, led by SUNY Poly, in partnership with New York state and General Electric, is fast approaching production strength for power electronics,” Sammakia said.

The success of the PEMC production line in Albany is also key for SUNY Poly’s Utica campus, where GE is also planning to work with SUNY Poly on silicon carbide chip “packaging,” another stage in the chip making process where the chips are put into protective materials and made ready to plug into devices.

By Larry Rulison


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