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2 June 2014

Progress on EU project SPEED being presented at CWIEME Berlin

This year’s CWIEME Berlin event (24-26 June) - the world’s largest coil winding, insulation and electrical manufacturing exhibition - features a seminar from Dr Daniel Fernandez, chief technical officer of Spain’s INAEL Electrical Systems S.A. and coordinator of the 4-year €20m European Union's Seventh Framework Program (EU FP7) project SPEED (‘Silicon Carbide Power Electronics Technology for Energy Efficient Devices’), which began in January.

The project involves 17 companies and research institutions from nine different EU countries, including Spain’s INAEL, Centro Nacional de Microelectrónica, University de Oviedo and Ingeteam Power Technology SA, Italy’s Enel Distribuzione SpA, France’s AnnealSys SAS, Switzerland’s ABB Schweiz, Sweden’s Ascatron AB and Norstel AB, Germany’s Technische Universität München, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität Hannover and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Infineon Technologies of Germany and Austria, the Czech Technical University in Prague, and the UK’s University of Nottingham. SPEED aims to make a step change in the efficiency of power generation, distribution and transmission through the use of silicon carbide (SiC) - as a higher-performing alternative to silicon - in high-power semiconductor devices.

“Silicon carbide is a much better insulator than silicon and can withstand far higher voltages - which makes it attractive for high-voltage and high-power electrical circuits,” says Fernandez. “The snag is the price.”

A key contribution of the project is therefore to establish the technology required to produce lower-cost silicon carbide in sufficiently large amounts to compete with silicon. The SPEED project team has already made progress in growing wafers of consistently high quality, using techniques that Fernandez hopes will be industrialized in the future at very low cost. The next challenge is to use the wafers to fabricate circuits and devices.

“This project is all about developing real-world solutions that will become available in no more than four years,” says Fernandez, who will be presenting the research at CWIEME Berlin to an industrial audience comprising energy and utility companies as well as transformer, insulation and switch manufacturers.

The project comprises eight work programs: ‘WP1: Advanced SiC Materials: Substrates and Epi’, ‘WP2: Medium-Voltage SiC Device & Packaging Technologies for Wind Power Applications’, ‘WP3: High-Voltage SiC Device & Packaging Technologies for Power Transmission Applications’, ‘WP4: Advanced Characterization & Reliability’, ‘WP5: SiC-based Power Cells’, ‘WP6: Demonstrators: Wind Converters and Solid State Transformers’, ‘WP7: Dissemination and Exploitation’, and ‘WP8: Project Management, Roadmap Alignment’.

One problem that SPEED aims to solve is the relatively low penetration of renewable energy in the power grid. “When you change wind or solar power into a form that is acceptable to the grid, you lose a lot of energy,” says Fernandez. “Our current technology is somehow ‘pre-electronic’ from this point of view,” he adds. “But with silicon carbide devices you could feed much more power into the system, allowing us to increase the total contribution of renewable energy on the grid.”

This increased efficiency also has the potential to reduce energy costs, but another more certain benefit is increased reliability, says Fernandez. More robust transmission and distribution devices would limit disruptions to supply and lay the foundations for the spread of electric vehicles as well as other new electricity-based systems, he adds.

Fernandez will present ‘SPEED EU Project - Power electronics and the next generation of efficiency: The EU consortium seeking to make breakthroughs with SiC technology across the supply chain’ at CWIEME Central on 26 June (11:50-12:30).

Tags: Silicon carbide Power electronics

Visit: www.coilwindingexpo.com/berlin

Visit: www.speed-fp7.org

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