Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Energy Department Awards $6 Million to Universities in Tennessee and Virginia to Advance Master's and Doctoral Training in Power Electronics

October 8, 2015

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced the two universities selected to receive nearly $6 million to establish one or more graduate-level training programs for engineers in power electronics. Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz made the announcement at the opening ceremony of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2015 in Irvine, California, to the collegiate teams competing in this year’s event. The power electronics training programs are part of the Obama Administration's commitment to accelerating American manufacturing and developing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education programs that support the next generation of engineers and manufacturers. 

The training curricula in power electronics—which control or convert electrical energy into usable power—will include cutting-edge wide bandgap semiconductors that can operate at higher temperatures, voltages, and frequencies, and are more durable and reliable than silicon-based counterparts. The five-year traineeships programs will be implemented beginning in the fall 2016 school year and are concentrated on advanced power electronic equipment engineering, design, and manufacturing.

For this funding opportunity, the Energy Department has selected The University of Tennessee, Knoxville to receive $2.9 million and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) to receive $3 million to create masters or doctoral training programs that will enable the design, manufacturing, and deployment of advanced high-efficiency electrical equipment such as motors, inverters, and grid equipment, as well as high-efficiency electrical systems. 

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in collaboration with DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, will create design‐oriented education and hands‐on training with wide bandgap (WBG) power electronics for the next-generation power engineering workforce. The project will include wide dissemination of recruiting and teaching materials to other U.S. institutions, targeting 100% student placement and developing a clear strategy for recruitment of women and minority students into the workforce.

The Center for Power Electronics Systems and the Center for Power and Energy at Virginia Tech will implement a comprehensive graduate study and research program focused on the experimentation, design, development, and manufacturing of WBG‐based power electronics, grid equipment, and high-efficiency electrical systems. The traineeship program aims to significantly increase enrollment and graduation in power engineering, particularly by leveraging existing research activities and engagement with a strong and diverse set of partners.

Energy Department-funded training programs are designed and implemented to advance specific STEM workforce competencies needed to ensure America's security and prosperity by addressing its science, energy, and environmental challenges.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Find out more about the power electronics research supported by DOE's Advanced Manufacturing Office.