Think and Do.

President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have tapped NC State to lead a $140 million advanced manufacturing institute that will unite academic, government and industry partners in an effort to revolutionize energy efficiency across a wide range of applications, including electronic devices, power grids and electric vehicles.

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Watch President Obama's Jan. 15 speech at NC State.

The mission of PowerAmerica is to develop advanced manufacturing processes that will enable large-scale production of wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductors, which allow electronic components to be smaller, faster and more efficient than semiconductors made from silicon.

WBG semiconductor technology has the potential to reshape the American energy economy by increasing efficiency in everything that uses a semiconductor, from industrial motors and household appliances to military satellites.

Power in Partnership

NC State is leading the institute because of its success in developing energy innovations and working with partners to deploy them. NC State faculty in electrical engineering, computer engineering and materials sciences are on the leading edge of efforts to advance the use of WBG semiconductors.

NC State’s think-and-do approach to solving problems has created solutions that are already reshaping the energy sector. As the only university leading two active National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Research Centers, NC State has a proven track record of assembling teams to confront global challenges. In 2008 the university launched the FREEDM Systems Center, a model for the new clean energy institute, to lead the modernization of the U.S. power grid. Three years later the NSF created the ASSIST Center at NC State, which is developing self-powered health monitors.

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NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson discusses PowerAmerica.

Energy Solutions

The FREEDM Systems Center

Launched by NC State and the National Science Foundation in 2008, the FREEDM Center is building the electric power grid of the future. With 56 corporate and academic partners, it’s also a model for PowerAmerica.

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Dr. Jay Baliga on PowerAmerica

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Dr. Jay Baliga, distinguished university professor of electrical and computer engineering, on NC State's history of semiconductor innovation.

Jump-Starting New Industry

The innovations developed by PowerAmerica will give U.S. manufacturers a head start in the emerging WBG market. The WBG share of the international lighting market alone will reach $84 billion by 2020, the government estimates.

The institute will work to develop and optimize processes for manufacturing of WBG semiconductors while training the students and scholars who will push the industry forward in the future. Among NC State’s partners are four other universities — Arizona State, Florida State, the University of California-Santa Barbara and Virginia Tech — and 18 energy industry leaders.

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Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation & Economic Development Dr. Terri L. Lomax heralds NC State as a game-changer for energy efficiency.

Those corporate partners include Durham, N.C.-based Cree, whose innovative technology — first developed at NC State — has enabled it to become a front runner in the global lighting industry.

The total investment in the institute is $140 million, including a $70 million federal grant — the largest research contract in NC State’s history — and matching funds from the state of North Carolina and the institute’s university and industry partners.

This sort of approach to building industries is an NC State specialty. In its leadership of the Nonwovens Institute, another partnership with government and industry, NC State has sparked a textiles revival that has brought $700 million in industry investment to North Carolina in the last decade.

Partners for Prosperity

PowerAmerica comprises 18 energy sector leaders. Some, like Durham-based lighting manufacturer Cree, have longstanding connections to NC State. Below are our business and industry partners:


With roots in an NC State materials science and engineering lab in the early 1980s, Cree is a lighting industry leader that employs more than 5,000 people worldwide.


A subsidiary of the Japanese corporation of the same name, Toshiba International is a world leader in the design and sale of electric motors, adjustable speed drives and more.

Other industry partners include:

  • ABB
  • Arkansas Power Electronics International Inc.
  • Deere & Company
  • Delphi Automotive LLP
  • Monolith Semiconductor Inc.
  • Qorvo
  • Transphorm Inc.
  • United Si Carbide Inc.
  • Vacon Plc.

Energy, Less Costly and More Efficient

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Dr. Louis Martin-Vega, dean of NC State's College of Engineering, explains how decades of groundbreaking research by faculty and students led to the school's global leadership position.

There are few global challenges greater than the search for less costly, more efficient energy solutions. Power electronic devices are projected to consume 80 percent of all electrical energy by 2030, according to the DOE.

That’s where WBG technology comes in. The term “bandgap” refers to the amount of energy required to make electrons jump off their atoms and begin conducting electricity through a material. Conductor materials, such as copper, often do not have a bandgap, which is what makes them good conductors. Silicon-based semiconductors have narrow bandgaps, and most insulating materials — such as rubber and glass — have very wide bandgaps. The advantage of having a semiconductor with a wider bandgap is that it allows an electronic device to operate at higher temperatures, voltages and frequencies, resulting in less energy loss, better performance and greater efficiency.

WBG technology could halve the size of the average automobile’s cooling system, cut costs in data centers and reduce energy use in the nation’s power grid, according to the DOE.

Pack Pride

NC State research has yielded:

  • 800 U.S. patents
  • 1,500 worldwide patents
  • 400+ consumer products
  • $1.5 billion in venture capital funding
  • 100+ startups and spinoffs
  • 6,500 jobs

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Think and Do

See the people, technology and facilities that make NC State a leader in manufacturing innovation.

Press Kit

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