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9 November 2016

Wolfspeed wins 2016 R&D 100 Award for SiC-based underhood inverter for electric vehicles

During the R&D 100 Conference on 3 November, it was announced that Wolfspeed of Research Triangle Park, NC, USA — a Cree Company that makes silicon carbide (SiC) power products including MOSFETs, Schottky diodes, and modules — had won a 2016 R&D 100 Award for its high-temperature, wide-bandgap (WBG) underhood inverter for electric vehicles.

Selected by an independent panel of more than 50 judges and presented by the R&D 100 Awards Committee and R&D Magazine, the 54th annual R&D 100 Awards honors the 100 most innovative technologies and services of the past year. Award winners are recognized for their contributions to advancing science and technology across five primary categories: analytical/test, IT/electrical, mechanical devices/materials, processes/prototyping, and software/services, and four special recognition categories: market disrupter services, market disruptor products, corporate social responsibility, and green technology.

"Our SiC inverter is the first traction drive optimized for wide-bandgap devices that utilizes a commercially available SiC power module," says Wolfspeed's chief technology officer John Palmour. "By increasing power in a smaller footprint, Wolfspeed is enabling hybrid and electric vehicles to become more attractive to end consumers, contributing further to a reduction in the domestic use of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions," he adds. "Additionally, through our partnerships with other industry leaders, Wolfspeed ensures that our technology is readily adoptable in vehicle applications."

Wolfspeed's high-temperature WBG underhood inverter was developed in response to the need for smaller, lighter and more efficient systems with higher power density in the electric vehicle market, and in collaboration with the Toyota Research Institute of North America, the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the University of Arkansas National Center for Reliable Electric Power Transmission, and the Department of Energy (DoE) Vehicle Technologies Office.

Underhood inverters convert the DC power stored in hybrid, plug-in hybrid or all-electric vehicle battery packs to three-phase AC power that can be used to energize one or more electrical loads, and traditionally employ industry-standard silicon semiconductors. Utilizing Wolfspeed's WBG devices and packaging techniques in an underhood inverter allowed engineers to achieve faster switching with reduced system-level losses during high-ambient-temperature operation (140°C). Wolfspeed says that this WBG-based system significantly outperforms silicon technology and extends the realm of possibility for vehicle inverters, for which it has been named one of the top technical breakthrough products released in 2015.

The core of Wolfspeed's WBG underhood inverter consists of three commercial CAS325M12HM2 SiC half-bridge power modules, which are rated for 1200V and 325A of continuous RMS current at high temperatures. The inverter assembly also includes: a liquid-cooled cold plate (which provides the thermal conduction path for energy losses); low-inductance power bussing (which minimizes parasitic losses and maximizes switching efficiencies); snubber and filter components (which dampen over-voltage and over-current spiking and dampens resonances); control and drive circuitry (which performs the dynamic switching and provides users with feedback, control signals, and high-current gate drive signals); and an enclosure (which provides the unit with EMI shielding, electrical cabling, and liquid cooling inlet/outlet connections).

Wolfspeed says that, by using WBG materials, it has eliminated the need for the secondary radiator and thermal management system in the vehicle. This inverter allows the onboard power electronics to be cooled by the same coolant loop as the primary radiator and combustion engine, significantly decreasing the overall mass and volume of the system. In addition to reducing the system footprint within the car, Wolfspeed's WBG technology also increases the peak power delivery of the unit by 2–3x what is currently achievable, while operating at overall higher ambient temperatures.

Tags: WolfspeedCree SiC MOSFET

Visit: www.wolfspeed.com/power/products

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