A History of Silicon Carbide (SiC) Advancement: Basic Research to Product Applications

By Lynn J. Petersen and Terry S Ericsen

In 1994, the Power Electronic Building Block (PEBB) program was initiated by ONR. The PEBB program was an integrated program of material, device, circuit, and system science and technology development [1]. The core objective of the program was to reduce the size, weight, and cost of power electronics to realize power electronics shipboard power systems to enable future affordable and powerful electric warships. ONR had been developing wide-bandgap (WBG) material, device, circuit technologies for sensor systems, and had been doing so since the 1960’s.  The PEBB Program Office was formed to focus these efforts for shipboard power systems. 

 

Understanding that the WBG technology would drive future electrical power and energy systems, fundamental research was initiated on WBG materials and devices. Early on, it was noted that SiC was the most likely WBG technology to mature in a reasonable timeframe [2]. A Multi-University Research Initiative (MURI) was competitively approved to compliment the Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) and ONR fundamental research programs. SiC had many material defect and crystal growth challenges. SiC would enable the higher voltage needed to power future shipboard systems. The Army and Air Force needed the higher temperature systems enabled by SiC.  The Army, Air Force, NASA, and DARPA joined with the Navy to coordinated their programs to meet these challenges.

The cooperation of Air Force, Army, DARPA, NASA, and Navy began paying off.  During this same time, progress was made in SiC manufacturing and device development. DARPA, in conjunction with ONR, developed 3” SiC wafer manufacturing and defect diagnostic processes and demonstrated 4” capability. The Army concentrated on wafer epitaxy technologies and low -voltage/high-temperature devices. The Air Force also concentrated on low-voltage/high-temperature devices for aircraft power. The Navy focused on high-voltage-10kV epitaxy and high-voltage devices. ONR, with industry, developed 10kV/120A SiC modules (see Figure 2) based on 4” production and used them to demonstrate a 13.8 kVAC SSPS (Solid-State Power Substation) @ 20 kHz switching. The size benefits of SiC are apparent in Fig. 2, although it should be noted that the Si 10 kV stack shown includes cold plates and gate drivers.

Afterwards in 2012, a 4160VAC to 1000VDC converter switching at 40 kHz for shipboard applications was also demonstrated by ONR using the 10kV/120Amp SiC modules (see Figure 3). Starting in 2013, a Defense-Wide Manufacturing Science and Technology (ManTech) program was started – cost sharing the Army, Air Force, and Navy S&T programs. The objective was to improve manufacturing techniques, and increase wafer production to 6” to reduce SiC costs.

In 2017, ONR completed the development of 10kV/240Amp SiC module (see Figure 5). Also, ONR demonstrated the GEPEBB1000 -- a 160kW, 1kV Solid-State DC-DC Transformer switching at > 100kHz. A 6kV to 1kVDC converter employing GEPEBB1000 technology will be developed under ONR’s Hybrid Energy Storage Module (HESM) under the FY15 Future Naval Capability program. During this period, ONR found that increasing switching frequency dramatically reduces converter size and weight promising a possible 2 to 4 increases in power density while reducing conversion losses by 50%. In addition, 6” wafer production promises to reduce SiC cost to that of Si or below for equivalent power capability. 

In 2017, ONR completed the development of 10kV/240Amp SiC module (see Figure 5). Also, ONR demonstrated the GEPEBB1000 -- a 160kW, 1kV Solid-State DC-DC Transformer switching at > 100kHz. A 6kV to 1kVDC converter employing GEPEBB1000 technology will be developed under ONR’s Hybrid Energy Storage Module (HESM) under the FY15 Future Naval Capability program. During this period, ONR found that increasing switching frequency dramatically reduces converter size and weight promising a possible 2 to 4 increases in power density while reducing conversion losses by 50%. In addition, 6” wafer production promises to reduce SiC cost to that of Si or below for equivalent power capability. 

Looking ahead to support the total integrated power and energy system (IPES), the concept of power electronic power distribution system, or PEPDS, will marry the over 5 decades of SiC development with the necessary control systems to move the right power and energy from the specified source to the right mission load (propulsion and or mission) at the right time.  Shown in Figure 8, PEPDS has two assumptions associated with it: 1) Medium Voltage Direct Current (MVDC) is rectified from a Medium Voltage Alternating Current generator and 2) no load or source is directly connected to the MVDC bus, but rather the sources and loads are connected to the bus via a WBG SiC PEBB converter.  This arrangement forms a “System of Systems” of converters that communicate amongst themselves and facilitates the flow of power and energy when and where needed.  

PEPDS is a form of a micrgogrid, where by a shipboard application is decoupled from the grid and will rely on advanced controls to effectively manage power and energy [3].  The Electric Ship Research and Development Consortium (a consortium of colleges and universities focused on science and technology, research, development, and de-risking electric-ship technologies) have been investigating PEPDS enabling technologies to include controls.  The University of South Carolina, a member of the ESRDC, has assembled a system of systems of computers emulating a mini PEPDS structure and has demonstrated extremely fast communication rates between the converters.  IEEE Working Group Wgi8 [4], which focused on control layers and the associated speed at which communication decisions needed to be made, were employed in developing the PEPDS communication network.  Figure 9 shows the configuration and some of the preliminary results.  

Other universities funded via research grants from ONR  include Florida International University which is also contributing through the development of a MVDC smart grid and subjecting the smart grid to malware intrusions to de-risk cyber related challenges and concerns.

In conclusion, over the past half century ONR with the other DoD services and industry, have been advancing the material development of WBG technologies, and have most recently harvested the fruit of the material advances of SiC into applications that will benefit both the DoD and industry -- enabling higher efficiency, reliability, and availability. One day, SiC cost will be comparable to Silicon. The future is bright for WBG SiC based technology! 

References

[1] Ericsen, T. and Tucker, A., “Power Electronics Building Blocks and Potential Power Modulator Application,” Proc. 23rd Int. Power Modulator Symposium, Rancho Mirage, CA, June 1998, p 12-15. 
[2] Ericsen, T. “Future Navy Application of Wide Bandgap Power Semiconductor Devices,” Proceedings of the IEEE Volume 90,  Issue 6,  June 2002 Page(s):1077 - 1082  Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/JPROC.2002.1021572. 
[3] Ericsen, T, “The Second Electronic Revolution (It's All About Control) ,”  IEEE Transactions On Industry Applications, Volume: 46, Issue: 5 Digital Object Identifier: 10.1109/TIA.2010.2057400 Publication Year: 2010 , Page(s): 1778 – 1786.
[4] “Power Electronics Building Block (PEBB) Concepts,” IEEE publication 04TP170 prepared by the Task Force 2 of the working Group i8, 2004
[5] Petersen, L. “Navy Application of Silicon Carbide (SiC) Wide Bandgap (WBG) Semiconductors Enabling Future Power and Energy Systems.” Plenary Presentation at IEEE International Electric Machines and Drives Conference, Miami, Florida, May, 2017.
[6] Petersen, L. “The Electric Ship as a Microgrid.” Plenary Presentation at 2017 IEEE Second International Conference on Direct 

 

Acknowledgement
The authors would like to acknowledge the contributions of Dushan Boroyevich and Roland Burgos of Center for Power Electronic Systems, VirginiaTech, Blacksburg Virginia; David Grider and Ty McNutt of Woldspeed, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina; Ravisekhar Raju, GE Global Research, Niskayuna, New York.

Author Information

  Lynn J. Petersen graduated from the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD with a BS in Mathematics in 1986 and was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy. Selected for lateral transfer to the Engineering Duty Officer program, he received a MSME from the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA in 1994. Following Active Duty, he was employed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, Annapolis, MD as an Electrical Engineer. In May 2006, he was hired by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), serving as the ONR S&T rep to the Electric Ships Office, PMS 320. In November 2008, he was recalled to Active Duty with assignment as the Deputy Director, Electric Ships Office, PMS 320, assigned from 2008-2012. He was promoted to the rank of Captain in 2009, later retiring from the military in 2016 following 30 years of service in the Navy.   

From 2012-2014, he was the Navy’s Director for Systems Engineering in the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy (DASN) office for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E)

Following his service at DASN (RDT&E), Mr. Petersen serves as a Program Officer at ONR, leading basic research in power electronics, electromagnetism, and adaptive controls and applied research in machinery controls, Silicon Carbide (SiC) Wide Bandgap (WBG) semiconductor applications and Medium Voltage Direct Current (MVDC) power distribution systems.

Married to Alena, they have two adult children.  He is a member of IEEE, ASNE and the MRS. He and his wife are active in their church and singing.
 Terry S Ericsen

 

 

 


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