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Dean's Company Produces One of 2009's Top Technologies

 Dean's Company Produces One of 2009's Top TechnologiesA company co-founded by the dean of Valparaiso University’s College of Engineering was part of a team that won a prestigious award for developing one of the most important new technologies of the year, a silicon carbide-based power module that could improve the performance of hybrid electric vehicles and renewable energy generation systems.

A high-temperature silicon carbide power module developed jointly by Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc., the University of Arkansas, Rohm Semiconductor and Sandia National Laboratories is a winner in the 2009 R&D 100 Awards, presented by R&D Magazine to recognize the 100 most technologically significant products introduced into the marketplace during the past year. Dr. Kraig Olejniczak, dean of the College of Engineering, launched APEI in 1997 and continues to serve on its board as chairman.

Dr. Olejniczak launched the company to create advanced electronics and electronics packaging, with a focus on power-electronics that can work in high-temperature environments.

“Being recognized for developing one of the year’s 100 most important technologies, when you’re competing against organizations from around the world, says a lot about the significance of APEI’s high-temperature silicon carbide power module technology,” Dr. Olejniczak said. “The ability to operate in high-temperature, harsh environments makes the technology attractive for military motor drive applications, industrial deep earth geological exploration and commercial electric vehicles among other potential uses.”

APEI developed the high-temperature silicon carbide power module for Sandia National Laboratories, which requested proposals for developing electronics that could withstand higher temperatures.

Current silicon-based components can operate reliably at up to 125 degrees Celsius. APEI’s new power module, however, can operate at temperatures up to 250 degrees Celsius. That allows electronics to be integrated with a motor in a single assembly.

“The high-temperature silicon carbide power module developed by APEI is a truly innovative product that offers revolutionary savings in the critical areas of size, efficiency, weight and cost,” Dr. Olejniczak said. “We’ve demonstrated that this power module can significantly reduce electrical energy loss, and the commercial benefits of that are enormous. APEI’s power module could play a key role in the development of more efficient vehicles, the smart electric power grid, as well as in renewable wind applications that are critical to a more sustainable society.”

Dr. Olejniczak said the company is working on further improvements in high-temperature electronics that would be able operate at over 400 degrees Celsius.

 Dean's Company Produces One of 2009's Top TechnologiesSince 1963, the R&D 100 Awards have identified revolutionary technologies newly introduced to the market, including the automated teller machine, fax machine, Nicoderm antismoking patch, Taxol anticancer drug and HDTV. This year’s winners will be recognized at a Nov. 12 awards banquet in Orlando, Fla.

Engineers who develop new technologies like APEI’s power module are critical to addressing many of the world’s most complex problems, Dr. Olejniczak said, and Valpo’s College of Engineering strives to educate future engineers who are prepared to do so.

“At Valpo, we recognize how important it is to educate engineers who combine technical skill with a vision for innovation,” Dr. Olejniczak said. “We help our students become engineers who recognize how new technologies can be put to use for the benefit of society.”