Dow Corning to Help Develop Next Generation Propulsion Inverter for Hybrid Vehicles

Dow Corning Corporation’s Compound Semiconductor Solutions is a key member of a Delphi Corporation-led team that was recently selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to lead an industry and government team to develop a next generation propulsion inverter for hybrid vehicles. The new low-cost, smaller inverter will be used on high-efficiency hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), next generation “plug-in” hybrids (PHEVs) and in the longer-term, fuel cell vehicles (FCVs).

Dow Corning was selected to contribute unique semiconductor silicon carbide (SiC) epitaxy technology for the development of a high-temperature three-phase inverter for advanced hybrid vehicles. Dow Corning has been awarded a three-year, $2.4-million contract to develop this technology that will lower the cost of the inverter component and improve the performance of inverters, which control the power output and generation of hybrid vehicles during acceleration and deceleration.

The project is a key element of an overall U.S. industry-government collaboration to reduce the total cost and size of electric propulsion and battery systems for advanced hybrid vehicles, and the successful development and supply of unique SiC epitaxial wafers will position Dow Corning to be a leader in the industry.

Widespread adoption of more electrified vehicles, like today’s hybrids and next generation “plug-in” hybrids, is seen as one particularly promising path toward reversing the growth in U.S. dependence on imported oil, improving the nation’s overall security and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants. The DOE and Delphi view this particular project as a key element of a strategic, public-private partnership to achieve the lower-cost technologies needed for these advanced vehicles to become broadly accepted in the U.S. marketplace.

The Delphi-led research and design team will contribute $3 million and receive $5 million in funding from the DOE, resulting in an $8 million project, seeking to reduce the cost and size of the inverter for electric propulsion systems by 50% or more.

The primary team members for the project include: Delphi for the inverter design, packaging, thermal management, mechanical integration, build, test and assessment of cost to manufacture; Dow Corning and GeneSiC for silicon carbide-on-silicon power semiconductor devices; General Electric for high-temperature thin-film DC buss capacitors; Argonne National Lab for ceramic capacitors; and Oak Ridge National Lab for characterization of power semiconductor devices, modeling, simulation and evaluation of alternative inverter topologies, and system testing.

Silicon carbide technology, which uses a man-made silicon and carbon compound with unique thermal and electrical properties, is increasingly important in the development of new, more-efficient high-power electronic products. Silicon carbide devices offer high performance, but at a relatively high cost. Dow Corning’s new epitaxial deposition approach will deliver high performance to lower-cost devices by combining the advantages of SiC with those of conventional silicon. The project effort will be a good complement to Dow Corning bulk SiC wafer and epitaxy products and will target large volume, price sensitive, high power device and RF device applications where value exists for high performance levels that silicon has historically been unable to provide.

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