This past weekend, a former colleague of mine, Jayant Baliga, was bestowed with an exciting honor for the work he did while at GE Global Research. It is always exciting when recognition is given to former GE research projects and scientists, especially technology that is still extremely relevant and impactful to the research we are doing today.
Jay was recognized by President Obama as one of five recipients of the 2011 ‘National Medal of Technology and Innovation,’ the nation’s highest honor technological achievement. Jay received this award for the development and commercialization of the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) and other power semiconductor devices that are extensively used in transportation, lighting, medicine, defense and renewable energy generation systems. Many GE employees who work on this technology every day may not even realize that the IGBT was developed by Jay while he was working right here at GE Global Research.
The IGBT is a variation of the more familiar transistor, the very important and common switching device used universally in modern solid state electronics. Like most other transistors, they are manufactured suing silicon technology. The IGBT can be thought of as combining desirable properties of majority-carrier transistors (called MOSFETs) with minority carrier, or bipolar, transistors.
The impact of the IGBT is to have essentially displaced bipolar power transistors in all applications. They are presently preferred in most power electronics applications involving high voltage and high current. They are therefore present in almost all power conversion equipment made anywhere in the world.
The legacy of the IGBT at GE Global Research is an early major success in a continuing line of development of leading edge power equipment and devices. Although GE does not manufacture IGBTs today, GE uses large numbers of them in most of its major power electronics products. GE’s forefront work continues with development of power transistors in SiC technology, which maybe the next step in solid-state power electronics devices, and in the development of new architectures and implementations of power equipment.
For fun, here is the press release GE Global Research issued on Tuesday, December 14th, 1982 to announce the invention of the IGBT. Pretty exciting stuff! Congratulations to Jay Baliga and stay tuned for more power electronics news to come!