Global semiconductors leader ST Microelectronics introduces a new range of power devices designed to enable power supply designers drive up energy efficiency in applications such as solar inverters, electric vehicles, enterprise computing, and industrial motor drives.
ST’s high-voltage silicon carbide (SiC) power MOSFET has achieved an industry-leading temperature rating of 200°C. SiC properties help save at least 50% of the energy normally wasted passing through conventional silicon power transistors. The devices can also be physically smaller for a high breakdown voltage.
This technology is considered essential for continued improvement in system energy efficiency, miniaturisation, and cost.
High energy costs in computer rooms and data centres have become a matter of concern for IT managers. By replacing ordinary silicon switches with SiC devices in bulk power supplies, Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), a standard metric for determining data centre energy efficiency, can be increased. The Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI) claims that more energy-efficient networking systems and devices can help save over $5 billion and offset 38 million tons of CO2 by 2015.
ST’s new 1200V SiC power MOSFETs are also ideal for use in solar inverters as an alternative for conventional high-voltage silicon IGBTs (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor) to convert the DC output from the panel into high-voltage AC feeding into the mains supply with no special drive circuitry required. By operating at higher frequencies than IGBTs, SiC MOSFETs allow designers to miniaturise other components in the power supply, thereby reducing cost and size as well as enhancing energy efficiency.
In electric vehicles, SiC is expected to help significantly increase the energy efficiency and reduce the size of traction systems. The US DRIVE Electrical & Electronics Technical Team, a partnership between industry and the US government’s Department of Energy, is calling for energy losses to be approximately halved by 2020 while also reducing size by more than 20%. The team’s roadmap specifies wide bandgap semiconductors or SiC technology as a focus for R&D to increase power-converter efficiency and make the device tolerate higher operating temperatures more safely. The increased temperature capability of ST’s SiC devices (200°C), compared to ordinary silicon and competitors’ SiC MOSFETs, will help simplify vehicle cooling system design.