Drives and Controls Magazine

Study looks at future inverters and transmissions

01 June, 2002

Study looks at future inverters and transmissions

US researchers are developing technologies that could form the basis for future inverter and power transmission systes. Under a pair of contracts from the US Army, worth $1.5m, the researchers at the SatCon Technology Corporation will develop inverters using silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors, and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) system based on a patent-pending magnetorheological (MR) fluid technology.

The initial aim is to produce systems that could be used in rugged hybrid-electric military vehicles, but the technologies could also have industrial applications.

Silicon carbide semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures than existing silicon-based devices without liquid cooling. SiC-based drives should therefore be tougher and suitable for use in severe environments.

The CVT is being designed to work with in-hub transmissions for use in extreme environments. It will use magnetorheological fluids that change their viscosity when subjected to magnetic fields.

SatCon chief executive David Eisenhaure says that although the technologies are being developed for the harsh environments of fighting vehicles, they could also be used elsewhere. "The silicon carbide inverters will have the additional benefit of being applicable to industrial systems," he adds.