Drives and Controls Magazine

$3.3m boost for silicon carbide drives

01 November, 2002

$3.3m boost for silicon carbide drives

Rockwell Scientific has received two contracts from the US military to develop components and drives based on tough, high-temperature silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductor materials. The contracts could pave the way for a future generation of compact, rugged drives which could operate reliably at high temperatures with minimal cooling.

Under a $1.5m contract from the US Air Force Research Laboratory, Rockwell Scientific will lead a team developing an SiC-based switched reluctance drive designed to operate at 200°C. The team, which also includes Boeing and Rockwell Automation, will develop and test high-power-density SiC modules, high-temperature control electronics, and high-temperature switched reluctance motors for use in aircraft and spacecraft.

The technologies will be demonstrated in fault-tolerant electric actuators that can operate in harsh environments with minimal cooling. The development could reduce the size and weight of power electronics significantly, as well as cutting running costs. The SiC technologies could have commercial applications in areas such as hybrid-electric vehicles, power generators and naval propulsion.

In the second contract, worth $1.8m, Rockwell Scientific will lead a team developing efficient megawatt-scale SiC power switches for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The main aim is to develop fast-switching 12kV, 25A SiC switches for possible use in future hybrid-electric combat vehicles, and other military and commercial applications.