Striking Technologies for Power
THOR enables SiC to enter the market
Innovative technology developed by the co-labelled CATRENE-EURIPIDES² THOR project enables a steep increase of Silicon Carbide devices in the market. More compact power conversion solutions will be introduced in a variety of application areas and in particular automotive, aeronautics and healthcare.
The THOR Project, coordinated by Philips Healthcare, has delivered solutions for packaging, cooling and electromagnetic compatibility. This helps industry to transform the Silicon Carbide (SiC) market from a device to a power modules business. This transformation will lead to a jump in growth of the SiC device market from 26% to 39% within the next year according to Yole Développement.
In modern power converters, most of the volume is occupied by cooling components and electrical filters. SiC based power devices reduce both the requirements on cooling and filtering. THOR has exploited this aspect by developing high temperature packaging, compact cooling systems and smaller filters. Compact power conversion systems with a very high power density have been demonstrated in three application areas: aeronautics, automotive and healthcare.
These compact and highly efficient converters are essential for addressing the environmental challenges in terms of CO2 emission and over reliance on fossil fuels. Power converters will significantly reduce the weight of cabling in a single aircraft thus diminishing fuel consumption with an additional 30% being saved by storing transient energy during braking. In the medical area, more compact systems at a lower cost helps to address the health challenges in the ageing society.
Key to the success of the THOR project was its coverage of the full supply chain from semiconductor device level to power system integrator in combination with three application areas to leverage the economy of scale. The commercial advantage is a stronger competitive situation for the different industrial partners, because recent advancements in power electronics technology provided by the academic partners have been integrated into advanced applications. This ranges from SiC and SoI technology to full compact power converters integrated in large systems.
Such broad coverage was made possible by the unique support of two large European (EUREKA) support programmes: CATRENE and EURIPIDES². The information sharing and cross-fertilization within the THOR consortium was excellent; more than 70 reports with results have been internally exchanged and new, long-lasting, collaborations have been established. Furthermore, the key players within THOR guaranteed efficient cooperation with other related European projects.
THOR also shared its newly generated knowledge amongst the academic and industrial public. More than 30 papers have been written, 25 presentations were given and 12 patent applications have been submitted. A book on EMC of large systems and installations has also been published in Dutch.
The first products based on THOR technology are already available on the market. In September 2012, STMicroelectronics released their SiC diodes for photovoltaic converters. They will extend their range this year to additional applications and SiC Mosfets will follow soon. Soitec and NXP have a new silicon-on-insulator process in place facilitating the design of high temperature drivers and the integration of low-voltage and high-voltage integration at lower cost.
For electric vehicles, Valeo has demonstrated a compact air-cooled high-voltage DC/DC-converter with efficiency 93% and 95% over a very broad output power range. The vapour chamber and heat sink have been designed such that the cooling capabilities of the converter are independent of the mounting orientation, thus offering large flexibility to car designers.
Labinal Power Systems, Airbus Group Innovations, Thales Microelectronics and CIRTEM have demonstrated a compact power converter, which covers a very large temperature range such that it can be located at both aeronautic engines and in brakes on airplanes (very high temperatures).
Philips Healthcare and the Dutch SME Prodrive Technologies demonstrated the capabilities of full digital control for power electronics. Among others, a compact high voltage power supply was shown with an ideal topology for introducing SiC components. Pilot tests in hospitals are already ongoing. Further, a feedback system was developed, which can correct up to 10 dB variations in amplifier gain.
“All challenging technological projects provide at times a rough ride. The joint focus and ambition shared by the THOR consortium kept the project healthy and allowed us to go beyond our initial targets. Now, the partners have blue sky in front of them.” Mark van Helvoort, International THOR Project leader, Philips Healthcare.
The THOR consortium was established by the following Dutch and French partners: Airbus Group Innovations, Ampère Insa Lyon, Bruco Integrated Circuits, Cirtem, Epsilon Ingénierie, Labinal Power Systems (Safran) , NXP, Philips, Prodrive, Soitec, ST Microelectronics, Thales Microelectronics, Université de Versaille Saint-Quentin en Yvelines, TU/e and Valeo.
About CATRENE: CATRENE (Cluster for Application and Technology Research in Europe on NanoElectronics) is targeting technological leadership for a competitive European ICT industry. It is the ambition of Europe and the European companies to deliver nano-electronics solutions that respond to the needs of society at large, improving the economic prosperity of Europe and reinforcing the ability of its industry to be at the forefront of the global competition. CATRENE builds on the successful previous EUREKA programmes JESSI, MEDEA, and MEDEA+ in fostering the continued development of a dynamic European ecosystem with the critical mass necessary to compete at a global level in high technology industries.
About EURIPIDES²: EURIPIDES² is a EUREKA cluster supporting cooperative industrial R&D from design to process and manufacturing in the crucial domain of smart electronic systems integration. EURIPIDES² projects develop new products and processes in aerospace, automotive, energy, health care, transport, and in all new domains like smart cities, mobility and security. EURIPIDES² will focus on applications and marketable products that could be manufactured in Europe with competitive prices. This involves exploiting all the different players in the electronic value chain such as academia, SMEs, large companies, integrating companies and end-users.
Countries involved: The Netherlands, France
Cost: EUR 32.6 million
Duration: 36 months
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