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Saving energy, money and lives

President Barack Obama has awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to North Carolina State University professor Dr. B. Jayant Baliga. The medal is the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement.

Baliga, a Distinguished University Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and founding director of the Power Semiconductor Research Center, was honored for inventing, developing, and commercializing the Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT). The energy-saving semiconductor switch controls the flow of power from an electrical energy source to any application that needs energy.

Dr. B. Jayant Baliga

The IGBT improves energy efficiency by more than 40 percent in an array of products, from cars and refrigerators to light bulbs, and it is a critical component enabling modern compact cardiac defibrillators. The impact of the improved efficiency of IGBT-enabled applications has been a cumulative cost savings of $2.7 trillion for U.S. consumers and $15.8 trillion for worldwide consumers over the last 20 years. At the same time, the improved efficiency produced by IGBT-enabled applications has produced a cumulative reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 35 trillion pounds in the U. S. and 78 trillion pounds worldwide over the last 20 years. In addition, IGBT-based compact portable defibrillators are projected to have saved nearly 100,000 lives in the United States.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by the nation for my work over the last 35 years,” Baliga says. “It’s wonderful to see power semiconductor technology recognized for its enormous contribution to improving the quality of life for society, while mitigating our impact on the environment. And while much has been accomplished, I am continuing my work in the area of renewable energy systems.”

The medal, which is awarded annually, recognizes outstanding contributions to America’s economic, environmental and social well-being. Established by the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, the medal was first awarded in 1985.

Baliga is currently working with the FREEDM Systems Center, a National Science Foundation-sponsored Engineering Research Center led by NC State that seeks to improve the nation’s distribution and management of power. Baliga, who has been a faculty member at NC State since 1988, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a Fellow of the IEEE.