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5 projects pave the way for silicon carbide in power electronics

19 October, 2017

Less power loss, increased efficiency and the possibility of higher frequency operation – silicon carbide has many advantages compared to silicon. However, concerns about reliability and cost have resulted in many companies not choosing to use silicon carbide in their products. Now, five new research projects will help overcome the hesitation.  

Today, silicon is the dominating semiconductor material in power electronics. This is the case even though silicon carbide has proven to be more efficient and can operate at higher frequencies with lower switching losses. Higher cost and a worry regarding the reliability are factors that have been more important; but now things are changing.

– Due to material defects, silicon carbide has been difficult to manufacture in large wafers for electronics production. Therefore silicon carbide based devices have been expensive compared to silicon devices. But now, technology to make larger wafers of silicon carbide is starting to catch up and  it becomes cheaper to use the advantages of the material, says Klas Brinkfeldt, researcher at Swerea IVF.

Five new research projects will investigate how power electronics based on silicon carbide should be designed to live up to the (often high) requirements of operation and  reliability.

  • ”SiC-based DCDC-converter for vehicle applications”

  • ”Reliability of SiC-based inverter in heavy vehicle applications”

  • ”Low inductive SiC-based power module (LISM)”

  • ”Compact low inductive SiC power module (embedded and integrated 10 kW power module with SiC MOSFETs)”

  • ”Electric systems in electric vehicles – maximizing of energy gains in two key cases”.

Three of the projects target the automotive industry, where a shift towards electric vehicles makes the efficiency of the power electronics very important. The ability of silicon carbide to handle a higher frequency means, for example, that weight and volume of the system can be reduced, which are important factors in the automotive industry.

Another important issue is the reliability:

– The automotive industry wants to make sure that silicon carbide based systems can meet its long life requirements at least as well as silicon based systems before the semiconductor materials are replaced. That is what we are trying to help them find out, Klas Brinkfeldt concludes.

The five projects are financed by the Swedish Energy Agency and Vinnova- Sweden’s innovation agency.