Progress has been made in a continuing effort to develop multi-chip power modules (SiC MCPMs). This effort at an earlier stage was reported in “SiC Multi-Chip Power Modules as Power-System Building Blocks” (LEW-18008-1), NASA Tech Briefs, Vol. 31, No. 2 (February 2007), page 28.

The following unavoidably lengthy recapitulation of information from the cited prior article is prerequisite to a meaningful summary of the progress made since then:

  • SiC MCPMs are, more specifically, electronic power-supply modules containing multiple silicon carbide power integrated-circuit chips and silicon-on-insulator (SOI) control integrated-circuit chips. SiC MCPMs are being developed as building blocks of advanced expandable, reconfigurable, fault-tolerant power-supply systems. Exploiting the ability of SiC semiconductor devices to operate at temperatures, breakdown voltages, and current densities significantly greater than those of conventional Si devices, the designs of SiC MCPMs and of systems comprising multiple SiC MCPMs are expected to afford a greater degree of miniaturization through stacking of modules with reduced requirements for heat sinking.
  • The stacked SiC MCPMs in a given system can be electrically connected in series, parallel, or a series/parallel combination to increase the overall power-handling capability of the system. In addition to power connections, the modules have communication connections. The SOI controllers in the modules communicate with each other as nodes of a decentralized control network, in which no single controller exerts overall command of the system. Control functions effected via the network include synchronization of switching of power devices and rapid reconfiguration of power connections to enable the power system to continue to supply power to a load in the event of failure of one of the modules.
  • In addition to serving as building blocks of reliable power-supply systems, SiC MCPMs could be augmented with external control circuitry to make them perform additional power-handling functions as needed for specific applications. Because identical SiC MCPM building blocks could be utilized in such a variety of ways, the cost and difficulty of designing new, highly reliable power systems would be reduced considerably. This concludes the information from the cited prior article.

The main activity since the previously reported stage of development was the design, fabrication, and testing a 120-VDC-to-28-VDC modular power-converter system composed of eight SiC MCPMs in a 4 (parallel)-by-2 (series) matrix configuration, with normally-off controllable power switches. The SiC MCPM power modules include closed-loop control subsystems and are capable of operating at high power density or high temperature. The system was tested under various configurations, load conditions, load-transient conditions, and failure-recovery conditions.

Planned future work includes refinement of the demonstrated modular system concept and development of a new converter hardware topology that would enable sharing of currents without the need for communication among modules. Toward these ends, it is also planned to develop a new converter control algorithm that would provide for improved sharing of current and power under all conditions, and to implement advanced packaging concepts that would enable operation at higher power density.

This work was done by Alexander Lostetter, Edgar Cilio, Gavin Mitchell, and Roberto Schupbach of Arkansas Power Electronics International, Inc. for Glenn Research Center.

Inquiries concerning rights for the commercial use of this invention should be addressed to NASA Glenn Research Center, Innovative Partnerships Office, Attn: Steve Fedor, Mail Stop 4–8, 21000 Brookpark Road, Cleveland, Ohio 44135. Refer to LEW-18341-1.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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