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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/R024413/1
Title: Novel GaN Power Devices and Packaging Technologies for 300 degC Ambient Operation
Principal Investigator: Wasige, Professor E
Other Investigators:
Thayne, Dr I
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
INEX Microtechnology Ltd memsstar Technology Optocap Ltd
Rolls-Royce Plc (UK) University of Manchester, The
Department: School of Engineering
Organisation: University of Glasgow
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 June 2018 Ends: 31 December 2021 Value (£): 573,386
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Electronic Devices & Subsys.
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine Electronics
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
11 Jan 2018 EPSRC ICT Prioritisation Panel Jan 2018 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
This proposal straddles two key topics, High Temperature (HT) Electronics and Power Electronics. Present electronics is silicon-based and therefore limited to maximum operating junction temperatures of less than 150 degC, which gives a maximum ambient ceiling of around 105 degC. Commercially available components (rated for operation at elevated temperature) are in the range of 210-225 degC maximum. Therefore electronics for the automotive sector, especially for the emerging electric vehicles, and the aerospace sector is kept as far from the engine as possible to minimise the cooling requirements. Similarly, oil and gas engineers, attempting to harvest the fossil fuels (which we are still highly dependent on), face exactly the same problem with the electronics that are driving the drilling tool motor. Power electronic devices delivering hundreds of Watts of power to the motor must do so in an ambient that can exceed 225 degC, operating 10 km or deeper under the ground with only slurry pumped from the surface to cool the devices (temperature and time restrictions apply). The potential benefit for having electronics operating in these environments without cooling is huge, leading to greater efficiency, reliability, saving space, weight and importantly cost.

Power Electronics plays a very important role in the electrical power conversion and is widely used in transportation, renewable energy and utility applications. By 2020, 80% of electrical power will go through power electronics converters somewhere between generation, transmission, distribution and consumption. So high-efficiency, high-power-density and high-reliability are very important for power electronics converters. The conventional Si-based power electronics devices have, however, reached the limit of their potential (after almost 40 years of development). The emergence of wide-bandgap material such as silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) based devices has brought in clear opportunities enabling compact, more efficient power converters, operating at higher voltages, frequencies and powers, and harsh environments (e.g. 300 degC ambients) and so can meet the increasing demand by a range of existing and emerging applications. Advances in GaN device structure and in process technology to significantly improve performance are pushing the adoption of these new power devices for very high voltage (>600 V), high temperature (>125 degC) and high power (mainly 6-40kW) applications. This trend is set to continue as the technology evolves. For 600V operation, a threshold voltage +3V would be desirable (well above the +1.6V maximum now achievable) for improved noise immunity. Also, presently, the device architecture compromises converter performance, e.g. in a half-bridge power converter module the current through the top switch transistor is modulated by its floating substrate potential. When this deficiency can be solved, the two transistors of the basic building block of all power electronic systems can be manufactured as a single integrated circuit reducing switching path inductance thus allowing faster switching and smaller cheaper passive components, increasing switch yield per wafer for the small devices targeted and reducing packaging costs.

Reliable packaging methods for the new devices and ICs are indispensable for the required testing during development, and for the eventual exploitation in industrial HPHT applications. The required materials and joining methods at >300 degC ambient environments are completely different from those of conventional electronics, and need to be developed. These challenges with HT electronics and GaN switches/packaging form the main motivations for this project.

The project brings together the UK's key academic and industrial expertise to work in synergy to investigate HT packaging and GaN power devices to realise a robust and high performance High Power High Temperature (HPHT) technology.
Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
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Organisation Website: http://www.gla.ac.uk