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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/V000543/1
Title: Silicon Carbide Power Conversion for Telecommunications Satellite Applications
Principal Investigator: Gammon, Dr PM
Other Investigators:
Shah, Dr V Antoniou, Dr M Mawby, Professor P
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Catholic University of Louvain Clas-SiC Wafer Fab Ltd Compound Semiconductor App. Catapult
Micross Components Thales Alenia Space Belgium s.a.
Department: Sch of Engineering
Organisation: University of Warwick
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 October 2020 Ends: 31 March 2024 Value (£): 746,426
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Electronic Devices & Subsys. Materials Characterisation
Materials Synthesis & Growth Power Electronics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Electronics Aerospace, Defence and Marine
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
10 Jun 2020 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 10 and 11 June 2020 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
State-of-the-art power electronics hardware on board satellites and other space vehicles have reached the limit of current radiation-hard silicon technology. Implementation of silicon carbide (SiC)-based power conversion in space is therefore an opportunity to bring about a step change in converter efficiency, size, and weight. Most importantly however, the higher temperature rating of SiC electronics would facilitate, for the first time, the co-location of the electronic power conditioners (EPCs) onto the same thermal baseplate as the travelling wave tubes (TWTs) they supply. In a telecommunications satellite, the space saved by this, and the removal of high voltage cabling, is expected to allow for 16 more RF channels to be added to the current maximum of 50.

Despite the adoption of wide bandgap technology in terrestrial applications, particularly in the electric vehicle drivetrain and in solar inverters, there is a lack of progress towards rad-hard SiC parts. Until now, researchers and companies have unsuccessfully attempted to retrofit radiation hardness, by repackaging terrestrial devices or by modifying traditional vertical device topologies. However, it is clear from decades of development in silicon that radiation hard devices require their own bespoke solutions (e.g. silicon-on-insulator or superjunction technology), requiring the materials and epitaxy, the device layout and the packaging all to be optimised. With considerable room for innovation in the SiC radiation-hard field, bespoke, patentable SiC devices will be developed, which take their inspiration from the rad-hard family of Si devices developed in the last 30 years.

The ambition of this project is to prove that SiC power devices can modernise radiation-hard power systems. Schottky diodes and MOSFETs will be developed, within a range of novel architectures, with immunity to high energy radiation their primary design feature. Through three development cycles, the radiation and electrical performance of the new SiC devices will be benchmarked to results from commercial terrestrial SiC devices and the Si state of the art. A set of 1200 V SiC diodes and 600 V MOSFETs will be evaluated by Thales Alenia Space for use in their telecommunications satellite EPCs. A UK-based route to commercialisation has been identified, supported by the project partners, involving higher TRL follow-on funding to bring the devices close to market. The project shall prove definitively, for the first time, whether SEE susceptibility in SiC is inherent or, as in Si, can be overcome through bespoke device design.

Warwick are uniquely positioned to make this leap, thanks to the expertise of its academic and research staff, and the investment in its epitaxy and fabrication facilities, that make it one of very few research groups in Europe, or even the world, that can innovate at every stage of development.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.warwick.ac.uk