In 2019, Dr Mike Jennings, Associate Professor at Swansea University, was awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Industrial Fellowship. These fellowships strengthen links between universities and industry as well as encouraging new collaborative partnerships.
Dr Mike Jennings works within the Centre of Integrated Semiconductor Materials at Swansea University. The Academy’s fellowship contracted him to be an embedded industrial partner at Newport Wafer Fab – a global leader in chip manufacture. There, he drew on over 15 years’ experience in the field to help establish a silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) manufacturing line for automotive application. This was further enabled by funding from the Driving the Electric Revolution Industrial Centres fund – a UKRI collaboration between the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and Innovate UK.
Dr Jennings’s power semiconductor device research focus has been on wide bandgap electronics materials for energy-efficient applications. Newport Wafer Fab are the UK’s largest manufacturer of semiconductor chips and were looking at the possibilities of compound semiconductors, including wide bandgap technologies.
In the future, the most efficient electric vehicles will be using SiC or GaN transistors (replacing silicon) in power electronic converters. Wide bandgap semiconductors are the underpinning components within electricity conversions technologies; being faster, producing less heat and maximising power delivery with the minimum of waste. These devices have the potential to increase the mileage of electric vehicles and trains as well as facilitating renewable energy generation.
Dr Jennings’s ambition is to realise an automotive-ready commercial wide bandgap process within the UK semiconductor cluster in South Wales. He says “The wider ramifications for this are game-changing with the possibility that it could replace all those automotive jobs that have been lost in the South Wales region.”
The Royal Academy of Engineering Industrial Fellowships scheme enables mid-career academics and industrialists to undertake a collaborative research project in either an industrial or academic environment, where one party would host the other.
The scheme aims to strengthen the strategic relationship between industry and academia by providing an opportunity to establish or enhance collaborative research between the two parties.