Research & Development The SiC Module Project aims to move e-cars into the fast lane (using silicon carbide)

| Editor: Florian Richert

How fast can an electric car drive and what distances can it cover? That depends on the built-in power electronics - the electronic heart of electromobility. Silicon carbide is considered a promising alternative material in the semiconductor industry.

Silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors can make power electronics, which control energy flows in vehicles, more compact and efficient.
Silicon carbide (SiC) semiconductors can make power electronics, which control energy flows in vehicles, more compact and efficient.
(Source: © Volker Mai/Fraunhofer IZM)

The new semiconductor material silicon carbide (SiC) has been tested for several years in research as an alternative material in the semiconductor industry. In the SiC module project, a research team from the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Micro integration IZM, together with six other partners, wants to develop the power semiconductor for industrial production. Power electronics equipped with SiC and installed in electric vehicles will make it more efficient and thus increase its range.

Silicon carbide saves space and has higher efficiency

When installing the power electronics, three factors are decisive: space, weight, and efficiency. Silicon carbide fulfills all the requirements because it has a higher efficiency and can be installed more compactly than conventional semiconductors such as silicon.
Despite this, there is still no e-car on the road today that contains silicon carbide. The semiconductor material has so far only been used in research environments. To be able to use the material in industrial production, the SiC module project takes into account the general conditions in industrial production from the very beginning. The module, developed at Fraunhofer IZM, is based on a classical printed circuit board structure, which is already established in the industry and can be easily implemented.

Bringing embedding technology into series production

The module is based on the latest developments in research: The semiconductor is not contacted with a wire bond connection but is embedded directly into the circuit via a galvanically produced copper contact, so that the cable length can be shortened and the power routing can be optimized.
The specifications that the product must meet have been drawn up and agreed by the researchers in close cooperation with users. Dimensioning and electrical design of the power electronics modules were carried out in direct cooperation with automobile manufacturers, component suppliers, and component manufacturers. This makes it possible to make optimum use of space in the vehicle drive train. Lars Böttcher is a group leader at Fraunhofer IZM and a sub-project leader for the SiC project. He explains: "We are going beyond general feasibility because in this project we are developing more than just a prototype. The goal is to get both the new semiconductor material silicon carbide and the embedding technology on the way to series production.

The SiC module project is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. In addition to Fraunhofer IZM, other partners are involved in the

  • AixControl - Gesellschaft für leistungselektronische Systemlösungen mbH
  • Conti Temic Microelectronic GmbH
  • Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule (RWTH) Aachen
  • Robert Bosch GmbH
  • Schweizer Electronic AG
  • TLK-Thermo GmbH

This article was previously published in German on Elektrotechnik.