ARL Funds Innovative Technology for High-Voltage Power Electronic System
A group of electrical engineering researchers are determined to make Northwest Arkansas a hub for the latest technological advancements by developing innovative modules capable of powering of high voltage electric motors for ships, cars and airplanes.
Researchers from the University of Arkansas are working to advance products for high-voltage, high-power, high-density, power-electronics energy conversion. This research will enable technology for high-voltage/high-power converters, which is the fundamental equipment in renewable energy, industrial platform electrification, transportation electrification and electric power grid modernization.
Fang Luo, assistant professor in electrical engineering, Alan Mantooth, distinguished professor in electrical engineering, Simon S. Ang, professor in electrical engineering, David Huitink,assistant professor in mechanical engineering, and Yarui Peng assistant professor Computer Science & Computer Engineering were selected for a $1.05 million Cooperative Research Agreement with the Army Research Lab, to develop ultra-high-voltage (>15 kV) power-module packages for future silicon carbide devices.
Luo believes replacing silicon for silicon carbide is a game-changer for power electronics and a way to advance technology. Silicon carbide enables power devices to become faster, more reliable and cost-effective. And with this new material, Luo hopes to create power modules that will reduce the size of the power device and enable it to switch with high voltage levels at a faster speed while also making sure it doesn’t overheat itself, which Luo said was a major challenge.
“The ultra-high voltage applied on such a small module package introduces extremely high electrical field across the entire package and brings challenges on module architecture, material system and design methodology,” Luo said. "Traditional module design experience and knowledge can no longer provide such a solution — we need to make breakthroughs in all these aspects.”
Luo is working to face the challenge by collaborating with experts from different fields and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
“To achieve the scopes in this project, we will work with ARL using a new thermal-electrical-mechanical co-design method and reinvestigate packaging materials and their combinations, module layouts and thermal management system,” Luo said.
Luo said the project promotes co-design philosophy here, which is a new approach to solve interdisciplinary problems. This approach can help to reduce the cost and time in the design phase while also achieve a globally optimal solution. It can impact the entire engineering design concept, and further help to reduce the cost of the existing products.
Luo and his team expect to complete the project in 2021.