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GaN and SiC Technologies Revolutionising Railway Power

16th January 2024

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In the dynamic world of railway technology, efficient and reliable power conversion systems are pivotal. The introduction of Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC) technologies marks a significant improvement in this domain, offering benefits over traditional silicon-based semiconductors. 

Understanding GaN and SiC Technologies

GaN and SiC are wide-bandgap semiconductors known for their exceptional properties. GaN boasts superior electron mobility and a higher breakdown voltage, enabling operation under extreme temperatures, voltages, and frequencies. SiC, on the other hand, is renowned for its high-temperature stability and ability to handle higher voltages, making it ideal for demanding environments. 

GaN & SiC Technologies periodic number and symbols

Advantages of GaN and SiC in Power Conversion

These technologies bring a host of advantages:

Enhanced Efficiency

GaN and SiC devices exhibit reduced on-resistance and switching losses, leading to superior efficiency in power conversion.

GaN & SiC Technologies periodic number and symbols

Compact Form Factor

Their higher power density facilitates miniaturisation, crucial for space-constrained railway applications.

Rapid Switching

Faster switching transitions in GaN transistors minimise losses, enhancing overall system performance.

High Voltage Operation and Thermal Endurance

SiC’s ability to operate at elevated voltage levels and temperatures adds to its suitability for the railway industry.

Breakthrough in Breakdown Voltage and Thermal Conductivity

GaN and SiC are wide-bandgap semiconductors known for their exceptional properties. GaN boasts superior electron mobility and a higher breakdown voltage, enabling operation under extreme temperatures, voltages, and frequencies. SiC, on the other hand, is renowned for its high-temperature stability and ability to handle higher voltages, making it ideal for demanding environments. 

High Breakdown Voltage

SiC has a breakdown voltage ten times greater than silicon (Si). This property is crucial for handling high-voltage applications, making SiC devices ideal for power supplies that require robust voltage management.

Superior Thermal Conductivity

SiC’s thermal conductivity is approximately three times better than that of silicon. This allows SiC devices to operate efficiently at temperatures above 175ºC, surpassing the limits of traditional Si-based packages.

SiC Breakthrough in breakdown voltage and thermal connectivity table

Advantages of SiC Diodes

Reduced Reverse Recovery Effect

SiC diodes exhibit a minimal reverse recovery effect, which significantly cuts down switching losses. This leads to:

  • Increased efficiency compared to Si diodes if the same switching frequency is maintained.
  • Enhanced power density versus Si diodes, allowing for higher switching frequencies and smaller inductive components.
SiC Diodes vs Si graph
Figure 1: SiC Vs. Si

Advantages of SiC MOSFETS

Reduced ON-Resistance

For applications over 900V, SiC MOSFETs show a substantial reduction in specified ON-Resistance, enabling higher current density per device and a consequent reduction in size and weight.

Stable ON-Resistance with Temperature

SiC MOSFETs exhibit less variation in ON-Resistance with temperature changes. This stability allows for the design of equipment that operates effectively at higher temperatures.

Lower Internal Capacitance

SiC MOSFETs have significantly reduced internal capacitance, particularly in reverse capacitance (Cgd), facilitating extremely high switching speeds.

Challenges and Future Developments in GaN Technology

Premium PSU is at the forefront of integrating Gallium Nitride (GaN) technology into electronic devices, collaborating with the ALL2GaN project. This initiative represents a significant stride in harnessing GaN’s potential to enhance electronic device performance across various sectors, with a notable focus on railway applications.

Collaboration and Research: The partnership with ALL2GaN underscores a commitment to developing affordable and eco-friendly GaN technologies. Premium PSU’s Research and Development Innovation (RDI) department plays a crucial role in this endeavor, updating existing equipment to incorporate GaN technology effectively.

Diverse Applications

1

Radio Frequency & Communication

GaN is set to revolutionise RF and communication systems. Its application in high-frequency and high-power amplifiers promises substantial improvements in efficiency and performance.

2

Electric Mobility

In the realm of electric mobility, including railways and electric vehicles, GaN technology is a game-changer. It enhances efficiency and performance, contributing to reduced carbon emissions and fostering a more sustainable transportation ecosystem.

3

Energy
Sector

GaN’s impact extends to energy-related applications like photovoltaics (PV), DC microgrids, and lighting, addressing key climate and energy challenges.

Environmental and Social Impact

A key aspect of the ALL2GaN project is its focus on the broader environmental and social implications. By enhancing efficiency and reducing energy consumption, GaN technology promises a positive environmental impact. Furthermore, its application in electric mobility and energy sectors aligns with global sustainability goals, marking a step forward in addressing climate and social challenges. 

Objectives and Prototypes

The project’s objectives are ambitious, aiming to demonstrate the superior efficiencies, higher switching frequencies, and greater power densities achievable with GaN, without sacrificing reliability. The development of prototypes is anticipated to significantly demonstrate GaN devices’ capabilities in improving system performance.

SiC technology is integral to several of Premium PSU pioneering products. The CRS-2000 and CBS-10K DC/DC converters each leverage SiC’s unique capabilities to ensure optimal power conversion efficiency which is vital in high power railway applications. The OVX-6400 DC/AC inverter exemplifies Premium’s commitment to utilising cutting-edge technology for railway solutions. The FlexStorm high frequency 3kW rectifiers embody the advancements made possible by SiC, offering seamless power delivery and heightened efficiency in industrial and trackside environments, which stand as prime examples of Premium’s dedication to harnessing SiC’s potential to deliver superior performance and reliability.

Premium PSU has a wide range of dc-dc converters and dc-ac inverters designed specifically to comply with EN50155 standard. It also has extensive experience developing custom designs to ensure protection and quality in the harshest environments. 

Relec Electronics is Premium PSU’s UK partner and offers a wide and varied portfolio of high-performance, rugged ac-dc, dc-dc converters, dc-ac inverters, displays and EMC filters for the railway industry as well as for other demanding applications in other industrial sectors.

In addition to Premium PSU’s dc-ac inverters, Relec also supplies high quality ac-dc power supplies and dc-dc converters from industry leading manufacturers such as Bel PowerArtesynMornsun and Cincon and a wide range of EMC filters, all designed for use in the rail industry.

Related Content

The OVX-6400 dc-ac inverter is engineered to operate over a wide input range and to protect loads at start-up and mid-power modes. The rail-certified products are available from specialist power company, Relec Electronics and are the first designed by Premium to operate straight from the high voltage catenary power line.  

GET IN TOUCH TODAY – 01929 555700

At Relec Electronics, we are committed to empowering your applications with the right power conversion solutions. Leveraging our extensive knowledge and experience, we guide you through the selection process, ensuring that you have all the information you need to make the best choice for your specific needs.

In the ever-evolving world of power electronics, having a trusted partner like Relec Electronics by your side ensures that you are equipped with the right tools and knowledge to navigate the complexities of power conversion, driving your applications to new heights of performance and reliability. 

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