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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R004390/1
Title: Multi-Domain Virtual Prototyping Techniques for Wide-Bandgap Power Electronics
Principal Investigator: Evans, Dr PL
Other Investigators:
Bailey, Professor C Simpson, Dr N Johnson, Professor CM
Yuan, Professor X
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr H Lu
Project Partners:
Department: Faculty of Engineering
Organisation: University of Nottingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 24 November 2017 Ends: 23 November 2021 Value (£): 1,079,258
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Design Engineering Power Electronics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
25 Apr 2017 Power Electronics 2016-17 Interviews Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Power electronics is a key component in a low-carbon future, enabling energy-efficient conversion and control solutions for a wide variety of energy and transportation applications. Power electronics technology enables electric and hybrid vehicles, it is the underpinning technology for the next generation of fuel-efficient "More Electric" Aircraft, and is essential for the operation of high speed rail services. It allows connection of renewable energy sources to the national grid and allows us to more efficiently use the electricity distribution networks we have. In summary, it has the potential to allow almost all electrical devices to become smaller, lighter or more efficient.

Until recently, power electronic systems have been based around Silicon transistors but inherent limitations of these devices present a limit to how small, light and efficient a power electronic enabled system can be. Next generation power electronics will utilise Wide Bandgap (WBG) power transistors, made from materials such as Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN) which are able to overcome the limitations of Silicon. This is achieved by having transistors that can operate at much higher frequencies, operate at higher voltages and higher temperatures, and dissipate less of the power they process as heat.

The problem is that our current understanding and experience of power electronic system design is derived from Silicon systems, and that the design of Silicon systems is less critical to achieving optimal performance. To fully exploit the potential of WBG based systems we must understand the challenges posed by the more extreme operating range of WBG devices, and tailor system designs accordingly. High frequency operation means that the electromagnetic design of systems is critical, to avoid unreliable power electronic systems and to prevent power electronic systems affecting other devices through electromagnetic emissions. High frequency operation also theoretically allows the reduction in size of passive filter components (inductors and capacitors) which can significantly reduce system size and weight (increased power density), however the behaviour of smaller passive components operating at higher frequencies is difficult to predict and they can suffer from thermal management problems. High power density power electronic systems, with WBG semiconductors able to operate at higher temperatures place increased thermal stresses on packaging and interconnection methods that were originally developed to deal with Silicon based systems, and this can adversely affect system reliability. An optimal WBG based system design must consider how component choice, system geometry and construction techniques affects each of these challenges, but as the challenges are coupled, any changes to a design to try to solve one problem can cause new problems in another area. Effects such as electromagnetic interference and reliability are also notoriously difficult to predict with extensive experience, and the behaviour of the wide-bandgap semiconductors themselves is different to their Silicon counterparts.

This research will develop the tools that power electronic system designers need to be able to design optimal WBG systems, right-first-time, on a computer - Virtual Prototyping. This will allow faster design times, as fewer physical prototypes must be built, and it will allow engineers with Silicon system experience to quickly develop high performance WBG systems. We will do this by developing mathematical techniques that can be applied to predict how a potential system will behave in the electromagnetic, thermal, mechanical, reliability and semiconductor domains. These techniques will then be combined into a proof-of-concept design tool that will be demonstrated on real wide-bandgap systems developed at the partner institutions, and through parallel work in the linked CA, RHM, and HI projects.

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Organisation Website: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk