Fraunhofer, Semikron research aims at improving passive components reliability

July 05, 2011 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
A collaborative research project of power components manufacturer Semikron AG and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Systems and Components (IISB) looks into failure mechanisms of passive integrated silicon components. The goal of the project is to improve the reliability of power modules for electric and hybrid electric vehicles as well as conveyor vehicles and forklifts.

Power modules controlling battery charging / discharging processes drive motors typically handle large energies. In such an environment the malfunction of a single component in most cases causes the destruction of the entire module. While silicon-based power switches have reached a high reliability, there is still significant potential to improve the external circuitry. Typically in such applications the resistors and capacitors used are designed as discrete components. Within the scope of the project the researchers integrate the passive components onto a ceramic substrate much like active components. The use of these monolithically integrated passive components can significantly increase the reliability of power modules, Fraunhofer said.

Besides battery electric and hybrid electric vehicles also energy transmission in energy distribution networks, production equipment and white goods can benefit from the technology. In addition, production processes of power modules can be simplified and optimized. Thus, the sales price of power electronic modules can be reduced. For instance, soldering processes become redundant since active and passive components will be integrated on one ceramic component carrier.

Fraunhofer IISB contributes to the project with its experience in integrating passive components into modules as well with its expertise of failure causes and lie time prediction methods. Semikron will evaluate the integrated passive silicon components at module level as well as within a field trial.

Results can be expected in 2014, the research partners said.