Power Electronics

Cree and Powerex Develop New SiC Power Switches for Next-Generation Military Systems

Cree, Inc, working with both the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Propulsion Directorate and high-power module pioneer Powerex, Inc., has developed a demonstration dual switch 1200V, 100A power module featuring all-SiC semiconductors and capable of operating at junction temperatures up to 200°C. The combination of advanced SiC devices and innovative package design allows the module to operate at temperatures beyond those achievable with a silicon IGBT-based module.

Development of the SiC power module was funded by AFRL. It features Cree high-current SiC MOSFETs and SiC Schottky diodes, which were developed under contracts from Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The SiC MOSFETs are normally-off devices and have drive requirements equivalent to the silicon IGBT devices they replace, making the SiC module a potential drop-in replacement for most applications. The all-SiC power switch module can be an enabling technology for next-generation military aircraft and future Army combat systems. This combination of Cree SiC devices and Powerex packaging technology could also lead to smaller, lighter-weight systems with reduced cooling requirements, while simultaneously offering increased reliability and overload capacity due to its high-temperature operation capability.

When compared to a silicon IGBT module of equal rating, and operating at a junction temperature of 150°C, the SiC MOSFET-based module has 38 percent lower conduction losses and 60 percent lower switching losses for a total power-loss reduction of 54 percent when operated at 20 kHz. The combination of both low conduction and switching losses make this module ideal for any application where high efficiency is critical--such as solar energy power inverters and electric drives, and power conversion for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The all-SiC module has been jointly developed using materials and assembly processes common in the industry, offering a clear path to volume production. The module can also be easily scaled for higher currents and the layout can be modified for other switch configurations.

"These 1200-Volt, 100-amp SiC MOSFET modules represent the next level of integration for SiC power devices. It represents a critical milestone in the technology progression toward high-reliability, energy-efficient power conditioning and control," said Dr. John Palmour, Cree chief technology officer, power components and RF devices. "Further, the component-efficiency advantage of this technology is highly relevant in the current energy-conscious environment and could translate to significant energy savings for hybrid and electric vehicles, solar power inverters, and industrial motor drive systems."

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