Power electronics performance in cryogenic environment: evaluation for use in HTS power devices

Pereira, P., S. Valtchev, J. Pina, A. Gonçalves, Ventim M. Neves, and A. L. Rodrigues. "Power electronics performance in cryogenic environment: evaluation for use in HTS power devices." Journal of Physics: Conference Series. 97 (2008): 012219.


Power electronics (PE) plays a major role in electrical devices and systems, namely in electromechanical drives, in motor and generator controllers, and in power grids, including high-voltage DC (HVDC) power transmission. PE is also used in devices for the protection against grid disturbances, like voltage sags or power breakdowns. To cope with these disturbances, back-up energy storage devices are used, like uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) and flywheels. Some of these devices may use superconductivity. Commercial PE semiconductor devices (power diodes, power MOSFETs, IGBTs, power Darlington transistors and others) are rarely (or never) experimented for cryogenic temperatures, even when designed for military applications. This means that its integration with HTS power devices is usually done in the hot environment, raising several implementation restrictions. These reasons led to the natural desire of characterising PE under extreme conditions, e. g. at liquid nitrogen temperatures, for use in HTS devices. Some researchers expect that cryogenic temperatures may increase power electronics' performance when compared with room-temperature operation, namely reducing conduction losses and switching time. Also the overall system efficiency may increase due to improved properties of semiconductor materials at low temperatures, reduced losses, and removal of dissipation elements. In this work, steady state operation of commercial PE semiconductors and devices were investigated at liquid nitrogen and room temperatures. Performances in cryogenic and room temperatures are compared. Results help to decide which environment is to be used for different power HTS applications.



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