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Wide Bandgap Semiconductor Based Solid State Smart Circuit Protection, Phase I

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Advanced solid state power component technology is necessary for future hybrid aircraft systems with increased power demands. There is a need for adequate circuit protection in these high powered electrical systems to achieve safety, reliability, and ultimately airworthiness. Solid State Power Controller (SSPC) modules already exist for aircraft applications but they were developed for the lower power levels seen in existing aircraft branch circuits. Hybrid-Electric aircraft have electrical power levels that are one or two orders of magnitude higher than existing aircraft and the presently existing SSPCs are simply not appropriate for use in these vehicles. SSPCs at the power levels required for a GA aircraft propulsion motor hardly exist; and SSPCs at the power levels required by small electric UAVs are too heavy and bulky. The LaunchPoint SSPC unit will incorporate all of the capabilities of existing SSPCs but with a few distinctions. LaunchPoint's SSPC will utilize Silicon Carbide and Gallium Nitride semiconductors to create SSPCs that are not only significantly smaller but can operate at much higher power levels. In addition to utilizing a different MOSFET element, the LaunchPoint SSPC would incorporate a microcontroller that would perform high bandwidth monitoring of current and voltage waveforms and derive low bandwidth metrics that can be reported back to the system Hybrid Power Controller. These metrics could include transient peak currents and voltages, RMS currents and voltages, and frequency content. In addition to these metrics, LaunchPoint would like to evaluate the feasibility of using the smart SSPC to detect imminent insulation failures resulting from coronal discharge, a particularly troubling problem associated with high altitude flight. This could be accomplished by real time analysis of partial discharge currents and other characteristic phenomena. These advancements represent a novel contribution to electric aircraft propulsion systems. More »

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