Optically Gated, Silicon Carbide (SiC) Semiconductors for Aircraft Electrical Actuator Motor Drives

Period of Performance: 08/17/2010 - 11/16/2012


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Semisouth Laboratories
201 Research Blvd.
Starkville, MS 39759
Principal Investigator


SemiSouth Laboratories, Inc., a leading developer and manufacturer of silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductor devices, OptiSwitch Technology Corporation, a leading developer and manufacturer of light activated semiconductor products, and the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) at Mississippi State University, a leading research center for hybrid electric drives and winner of the Challenge X competition, propose an optically-controlled three-phase motor drive to demonstrate the capabilities of optically-controlled 1200 V, 100 A SiC phase-leg modules rated for operation at temperatures up to 200 °C. An optical gate drive circuit based on intermediate optoelectronic conversion has been developed and excellent performance has been demonstrated at elevated temperature. The proposed switch uses standard components from SemiSouth and OptiSwitch as well as other commercially available parts. BENEFIT: A revolution in renewable energy, and a demand for greater energy efficiency in general, have created a technological need for smaller, more efficient, and lower cost power converters. It is apparent that silicon power semiconductor devices are fundamentally unable to simultaneously achieve high-voltage, high-current, and low-loss performance. This proposal, while focused on meeting specific Air Force requirements, involves expanding the use of high-voltage, very low-loss silicon carbide components in commercial, industrial, and military motor drives and power supplies.