More efficiency with e-motors

Sep 15, 2022 | Business & Financial Press

Partners from industry and science have developed a new control prototype for high-speed electric motors under the coordination of Infineon Austria. It uses the latest energy-saving chips made of the semiconductor material silicon carbide, thus enabling a significant reduction in size while simultaneously increasing efficiency.

Increased efficiency in electric and hybrid vehicles benefits both users and the environment. More efficiency means more range and the optimised electrification of the powertrain reduces the CO2 footprint. With each new generation of products, efforts are made to improve the efficiency of the overall system.

An Austrian research team from industry and science - including the University of Leoben, the Materials Center Leoben, FH Joanneum, Pankl Racing Systems, TDK Electronics and Infineon Austria - has taken on this technological challenge in the "INTEGRA" project. The result: a high-speed drive prototype that combines the highest power density with the highest efficiency and improves cooling management using 3D printing. Two patents have been filed.

Sabine Herlitschka, CEO of Infineon Technologies Austria AG: "The transition to electromobility is taking place with great momentum. Given the important contribution of e-mobility to achieving climate neutrality, highly efficient system solutions play an essential role. With the new semiconductor material silicon carbide, Infineon has a leading technical position. Together with excellent partners from industry and science, we can further increase efficiency in the entire drive system and advance sustainable mobility.”

High-speed drive prototype

The team's research has focused on electric motors with a higher speed, so-called "high-speed drives". With high-speed drives, the revolutions of the motors are 120,000 times per minute, while the usual speed for electric motors in the drivetrain is around 30,000 revolutions. The prototype achieves a permanently high power density of up to 390 watts/inch³, which is equivalent to a volume reduction of about 50 percent. This reduced size now corresponds roughly to the size of a shoe box. 

Highly efficient drivetrain with silicon carbide

Power semiconductors with the new material silicon carbide (SiC) are used for energy conversion in the inverter. The advantages of this innovative material: it enables high switching frequencies, more compact solutions and a further minimisation of energy conversion losses. Almost every second electric or hybrid car produced in 2021 already uses semiconductors from Infineon in the inverter. With SiC MOSFETs from Infineon, for example, losses in inverters at medium load can already be reduced by up to two thirds. As a result, SiC can help to increase the range of an electric car by five to ten percent. Through the research, the technical advantages of SiC power semiconductors can now also be used in high-revving drives. 

New material combinations

In addition to the electronics, the other mechanical components and materials in the system are also exposed to high demands and temperatures of 200 degrees Celsius. The team used new material combinations and connection technologies in order to take into account a wide range of thermal properties and stress effects in their interaction through an integrated concept and to realise them in a compact size. The new approaches improved both the energy efficiency and the electromagnetic compatibility of the overall system.

3D printing increases cooling capacity

One of the biggest challenges was the integrated cooling of the engine, as the increased speed generates more heat that has to be dissipated. The new cooling management system was produced using 3D printing. The team developed optimised architectures with new flow channels and fin-like structures. This resulted in a 30 percent increase in cooling capacity.

"With the research demonstrator, the foundation stone was laid to enable significant volume reductions in the electric drive. The new approaches improve energy efficiency as well as electromagnetic compatibility. The findings from the prototype, which can drive very high speeds, will also enable us to increase efficiency and power density in many other applications, such as industrial drives," says Herbert Pairitsch, Director Technology & Innovation at Infineon Technologies Austria and overall project manager.

Mobility of the future with know-how from Austria

The "INTEGRA" research project ran for a total of four years and brought together six partners from industry and research - including the University of Leoben, the Materials Center Leoben, FH Joanneum, TDK Electronics, Pankl Racing Systems AG and Infineon Technologies Austria. The project volume of 3 million euros was funded by industry and the "Mobility of the Future" programme of the BMK Federal Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology and handled by the FFG Research Promotion Agency.

About Infineon Austria

Infineon Technologies Austria AG is a group subsidiary of Infineon Technologies AG, a world-leading provider of semiconductor solutions that make life easier, safer and greener. Microelectronics from Infineon reduce the energy consumption of consumer electronics, domestic appliances and industrial facilities. They make a major contribution to the convenience, security and sustainability of vehicles, and enable secure transactions in the Internet of Things.

Infineon Austria pools competencies for research and development, production as well as global business responsibility. The head office is in Villach, with further branches in Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz and Vienna. With 4,820 employees from 73 countries (including 2,100 in research and development), in the financial year 2021 (ending in September) the company achieved a turnover of € 3.9 billion. With a research expenditure of 516 million euros, Infineon Austria is one of the strongest research companies in Austria.

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