STMicroelectronics has revealed an advanced new product family enabling power supply designers to drive up energy efficiency in applications such as solar inverters and electric vehicles, enterprise computing, and industrial motor drives. The device is a high-voltage silicon carbide (SiC) power MOSFET that has achieved a temperature rating of 200°C. SiC properties help save at least 50% of the energy normally wasted passing through conventional silicon power transistors and the devices can be physically smaller for a high breakdown voltage. This technology is seen as essential for continued improvement in system energy efficiency, miniaturization, and cost.
In computer rooms and data centers, high energy costs are driving power and efficiency to the top of many IT directors’ concerns. Replacing ordinary silicon switches with SiC devices, in bulk power supplies, helps increase Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE); a standard metric for determining data-center energy efficiency. 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.
SiC MOSFETs are also used 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. In addition, by operating at higher frequencies than IGBTs, SiC MOSFETs allow designers to miniaturize 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 – in other words, 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.
ST’s new 1200V SiC power MOSFET, the SCT30N120, is currently sampling and will enter volume production by June 2014. It is available in ST’s proprietary HiP247 package, which has an industry-standard outline and is optimised for high thermal performance.