NC State Electrical and Computer Engineering professor Dr. B. Jayant Baliga, may have the world’s smallest carbon footprint – the amount of greenhouse gases that a person directly or indirectly releases into the atmosphere each year.
One of Baliga’s inventions is responsible for eliminating the need for more than 100 gigawatts of power, which translates to a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of about 1 trillion pounds per year. Now, he is working to make his footprint even smaller by pursuing new inventions that further improve energy efficiency.
In 1980, Baliga launched a revolution in efficient energy use when he invented the insulated-gate bipolar transistor (IGBT) – a semiconductor that controls the flow of power from the energy source to whatever device needs the energy. The IGBT improves energy efficiency by more than 40 percent in an array of products, from cars and refrigerators to light bulbs and cardiac defibrillators.
The energy saved by the use of IGBTs in electric motors and energy-efficient light bulbs alone equals 100 gigawatts, meaning that new one-gigawatt, coal-fired power plants won’t need to be built to match the former demand. There are economic benefits as well – to the tune of $2 billion for each plant that does not have to be built.
The United Kingdom group Carbon Footprint estimates that the average American has a footprint of 44,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, At that rate, Baliga’s negative carbon footprint offsets the impact of more than 22 and a half million other Americans every year.
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama awarded Baliga the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement.