Amperesand raises $12.5 million to remake the humble 140-year-old transformer


The world’s electricity infrastructure is full of transformers, equipment that changes voltage as electricity flows through the grid. They are present almost everywhere, from power stations to phone chargers. For the most part, they have remained unchanged since their development in the late 1800s.

This longevity is a testament to the original design, but also to the few changes that the network has undergone in the years that followed.

Yet with distributed renewable energy, batteries and electric vehicles, change is happening across the global grid faster than at any time in the last century. Electricity no longer has to flow primarily in one direction, from a handful of massive power plants to millions of end users. Instead, each of these end users could be an electricity supplier themselves, making life difficult for the lowly transformer.

Additionally, the demand for transformers has offer exceededslowing the deployment of renewable energy projects and increasing costs.

Enter solid-state transformers, which promise to be what the integrated circuit was to the vacuum tube. Traditional transformers are passive devices, inadvertently increasing or decreasing voltage. The SSD versions promise to do much more.

For years, these were just research projects. Ampèreluette hope to change that. The power electronics startup raised a $12.45 million seed round to help the team commercialize the silicon carbide solid-state transformer technology it developed in the company’s research labs. Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The round was co-led by Xora Innovation, the startup arm of Temasek, and Material Impact. TDK Ventures and Foothill Ventures participated.


Current transformers are proven, very efficient and relatively inexpensive. But they are also massive and cannot help regulate voltage or frequency. If the increases or decreases are too great, it can destabilize the network.

As more things are added to the grid – from solar panels to whole-home batteries and fast chargers for electric vehicles – there is more risk of things going wrong. A converter on a wind turbine, which produces frequencies that rise and fall with wind speed, may produce a slightly different constant power output than another model. The same could be true for battery controllers and solar inverters. “There’s no uniformity, there’s a lot of randomness,” Anshuman Tripathi, co-founder and vice president of engineering, told TechCrunch. “When that happens, you need to have an active front end.” This active front-end will not only take power as given, but will also help mitigate randomness.

Solid-state transformers can fulfill this role. But it will take several years before risk-averse public services decide to use them. Amperesand therefore starts by selling to electric vehicle charging companies to power their ports.

The equipment fills the Amperesand facilities.

A view of the Amperesand facilities. Image credits: Ampèreluette

“Electric vehicle charging is a great use case,” said Phil Inagaki, managing director of Xora and interim CEO of Amperesand. “The scale of what people are looking at deploying around the world with electric vehicle charging creates the biggest market for transformers. »

Additionally, solid-state transformers are smaller than their predecessors and require less cooling, meaning installations can require up to 75% less space, Inagaki said. “If you want a fast charging station in a city, you might not have a lot of room,” he said. Even outside of cities, space is a factor to consider. “People who work in fast charging, I was surprised, they talk about it more than I thought.”

Amperesand said it can adapt its transformers to the needs of different sites. Unlike traditional transformers, which are monolithic pieces of equipment, solid-state transformers can be built using modules. Need more power? Just add more modules.

Transforming the way transformers are made

For a company looking to sell expensive network-connected equipment, $12.5 million won’t cut it. Fortunately, the startup doesn’t anticipate needing to build much manufacturing infrastructure beyond final assembly near where the transformers will be used. A number of semiconductor manufacturers can make silicon carbide devices, and there are even more suppliers capable of supplying printed circuit boards. Amperesand plans to deliver the first units to the United States and Singapore in 2025, with full commercialization the following year.

“Old transformers are based on iron cores and oil coolants. These things are very difficult to scale in manufacturing,” Inagaki said. “Nothing advances in performance and cost like semiconductor technology.”

And because solid-state transformers are basically solid-state, they have sensors that can provide grid operators with finer-grained data that will allow them to better understand how the grid is operating.

Once the company proves the technology and generates customer interest, Inagaki believes Amperesand will be able to quickly increase revenue. “It’s not like the low-cost units asking,” Inagaki said. “We think this is a type of business that could quickly [reach] the first $100 million in revenue. It has enough headroom to reach $1 billion in revenue without even hurting the total market in terms of deployed infrastructure.

If the company can break into the market, it could put the grid on the path to the “Internet of Energy” that experts have been waiting for for years. Such a grid would not rely solely on raw signals from a few points, but rather would be flooded with data. It can respond quickly to peaks in demand, such as when electric semi-trucks plug in to charge, or adapt to surges from solar-powered neighborhoods or call on distributed batteries to stabilize the grid when clouds pass over these neighborhoods.

It will be years before the Internet of Energy arrives, but solid-state transformers could become the cornerstone of it all.


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