The term “SiC MCPMs” (wherein “MCPM” signifies “multi-chip power module”) denotes electronic power-supply modules containing multiple silicon carbide power devices 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. Moreover, the higher-temperature capabilities of SiC MCPMs could enable operation in environments hotter than Si-based power systems can withstand.
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: typical functions could include regulating voltages, storing energy, and driving motors. Because identical SiC MCPM building blocks could be utilized in a variety of ways, the cost and difficulty of designing new, highly reliable power systems would be reduced considerably.
Several prototype DC-to-DC power-converter modules containing SiC power-switching devices were designed and built to demonstrate the feasibility of the SiC MCPM concept. In anticipation of a future need for operation at high temperature, the circuitry in the modules includes high-temperature inductors and capacitors. These modules were designed to be stacked to construct a system of four modules electrically connected in series and/or parallel.