Power Density Optimization of SiC-based DC/AC Converter for High-Speed Electric Machine in More/All-electric Aircraft

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Virginia Tech


The increasing shift towards more electric or all electric aircraft urgently necessitates dc/ac converter systems with high power density. Silicon Carbide (SiC) devices, known for their superior performance over traditional silicon-based devices, facilitate this increase in power density. Nonetheless, achieving optimal power density faces challenges due to the unique requirements and conditions of aircraft applications. A primary obstacle is optimizing the topology and parameters of the dc/ac converter system to achieve high power density while adhering to the stringent aerospace EMI standard DO-160 and bearing current limitations. Electric aircraft demand unmatched reliability, necessitating strict control over EMI noise and bearing currents. These considerations significantly impact the selection of topology and parameters to maximize power density. This dissertation assesses how dc voltage, topology, and switching frequency affect component weight, seeking an optimal mix to enhance power density. The methodology and conclusions are validated through a 200-kW motor drive system designed for electric aircraft. Moreover, traditional dc/ac systems are burdened by the weight and space occupied by separate current sensors and short-circuit protection circuits. This work introduces two innovative current sensors that integrate device current sampling with the functionality of traditional shunt resistors, AC hall sensors, and short-circuit protection circuits, thus improving system density and bandwidth. The first sensor, a PCB-based Rogowski coil, integrates with the gate driver and commutation loops, enhancing power density despite challenges in managing CM noise. The second sensor utilizes parasitic inductance in the power loop, with an integrator circuit and an adaptive compensation algorithm correcting errors from parasitic resistance, ensuring high bandwidth accuracy without needing parasitic resistance information. Variable operation conditions from motors pose another challenge, potentially leading to oversized inverters due to uneven loss distribution among switching devices, exacerbated at extreme operating points like motor start-up. This dissertation investigates the loss distribution in multi-level T-Type neutral point clamped (NPC) topology and proposes a novel loss-balance modulation scheme. This scheme ensures even loss distribution across switches, independent of power factor and modulation index, and is applicable to T-type inverters of any level count. Finally, thermal management and insulation at high altitudes present significant challenges. While power devices may be cooled using conventional liquid cooling solutions, components like AC and EMI filters struggle with complex geometries that can create hot spots or high E-field points, complicating filter design for high current applications. A comprehensive design and optimization methodology based on planar heavy-copper PCB design is proposed. By utilizing flexible 2D or 3D E-field shaping and maximizing thermal transfer from copper to ambient, this methodology significantly improves power density and ensures effective heat dissipation and insulation at altitudes up to 50,000 feet.



Silicon Carbide, Motor Drives, All-Electric Aircraft, EMI noise, Current Sensor, High Power Density, High-Altitude, Multi-Level Inverter