A Northrop Grumman-led team will develop lightweight, compact, high-power electronic modules that may make the bulky, heavy transformers used to distribute electrical power on ships a thing of the past. The team's wide-band gap silicon-carbide technology eventually will contribute substantial weight and volume savings on various naval platforms.
Under the $8.9 million contract, awarded by the Office of Naval Research, Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector will design and develop high-power electronics using wide-band gap silicon-carbide (SiC) technology as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Phase II Wide-Band gap High Power Switching program.
Under this award, Northrop Grumman will construct silicon-carbide-based, high-frequency, power electronic modules to reduce, by up to half or more, the volume and weight of the transformers, which can be as large as a sports utility vehicle and can weigh up to 20,000 lb. Wide-band gap silicon-carbide technology enables these improvements due to its ability to switch high voltages in a thin, high-speed device with excellent thermal properties.
"The U.S. Navy will benefit from these volume and weight reductions, translating into more shipboard capacity to accommodate other mission-essential sensors, systems, weapons and other equipment," said Steve McCoy, director of advanced technology programs at Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector. "Northrop Grumman has a strong history in silicon-carbide-device development and is leading the industry in inserting these devices into military platforms. I'm proud to lead a team of the nation's leading research institutions to design and build this next generation of power subsystems."
The Navy plans to incorporate this new technology on such platforms as the new aircraft carrier (CVN-78) where the Navy expects to realize a total weight savings of 170 tons and a volume savings of 290 cubic meters from this innovation.
Under the contract, Northrop Grumman will design, fabricate and test silicon carbide-based metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors, insulated-gate bipolar transistors and PiN diodes that will be assembled into 10-kV, 110-A half-bridge modules by Powerex, a program partner based in Youngwood, Pa. Other teammates include GeneSiC, Gaithersburg, Md.; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Va.; Auburn University, Auburn, Ala; University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla.; and Northrop Grumman's Newport News sector in Newport News, Va., which will design the solid-state power substation.
Northrop Grumman's Baltimore-based Electronic Systems sector is a world leader in the design, development and manufacture of defense and commercial electronic systems, including airborne radars, navigation systems, electronic countermeasures, precision weapons, airspace management systems, communications systems, space systems, marine systems, oceanic and naval systems, government systems, and logistics services.