Power electronics is a key technology for efficient use of electricity. Today already 40% of the worlds’ energy consumption is provided by electric power. It is expected that this share will increase to about 60% until 2040. Total sales of power semiconductors is growing 10% per year. This is driven by the need for more efficient use of electricity, by increasing use of renewable energy and by moving to electric vehicles.
Electricity has to be converted in many steps by adjusting voltage and frequency before it can be consumed. Using conventional silicon based power electronics 5-10% of the energy is lost in each conversion step, or even up to 20% with simple passive 50Hz transformers. With Silicon Carbide (SiC) these losses can be radically reduced, theoretically up to 90%! This will have large impact on high power electrical systems.
The following are some applications where the use of SiC brings advantages:
- Electric vehicles motor drives, chargers and charge stations
- Power supplies with battery back-up (UPS) for data centers
- Solar power inverters for DC to AC conversion
- Industry motor drives for speed controlled pumps, fans and machines
- Train motor drives and auxiliary power
- Offshore wind AC to DC conversion
- Solid state power transformer for grid
- Speed control of MW motors in process industry
The main benefits with SiC power electronics are:
1. Energy efficiency
- SiC extends the driving range of an electric car by 10%.
- More efficient re-use of braking energy in a commuter train can save 30% electricity.
- ROI for replacing an old transformer in 247 operation with SiC is less than 3 years.
2. System efficiency
- Smaller size
Switching frequency can be increased 10x with SiC. Therefore capacitors, coils and magnetics can be smaller and the size of the power converter can be reduced by 80%. The lower weight also makes installation and handling easier.
- Less cooling.
Lower losses generate less heat and thus require less cooling efforts. This simplifies the whole system design by e.g. replacing water cooling with passive air-cooling.
- Lower cost
Less amount of material and simplified cooling reduce the total cost of power converter.