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Cree and Powerex Develop New SiC Power Switches for Next-Generation Military Systems

Feb 17, 2009
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DURHAM, N.C. -- Cree, Inc. (Nasdaq: CREE), a market leader in silicon carbide (SiC) power semiconductors, working with both the United States Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Propulsion Directorate and high-power module pioneer Powerex, Inc., has developed a demonstration dual switch 1200-volt, 100-amp power module featuring all-SiC semiconductors and capable of operating at junction temperatures up to 200 degrees C. The combination of advanced SiC devices and innovative package design allows the module to operate at temperatures beyond those achievable with a silicon IGBT-based module.

Development of the SiC power module was funded by AFRL. It features Cree high-current SiC MOSFETs and SiC Schottky diodes, which were developed under contracts from Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The SiC MOSFETs are normally-off devices and have drive requirements equivalent to the silicon IGBT devices they replace, making the SiC module a potential drop-in replacement for most applications. The all-SiC power switch module can be an enabling technology for next-generation military aircraft and future Army combat systems. This combination of Cree SiC devices and Powerex packaging technology could also lead to smaller, lighter-weight systems with reduced cooling requirements, while simultaneously offering increased reliability and overload capacity due to its high-temperature operation capability.

When compared to a silicon IGBT module of equal rating, and operating at a junction temperature of 150 degrees C, the SiC MOSFET-based module has 38 percent lower conduction losses and 60 percent lower switching losses for a total power-loss reduction of 54 percent when operated at 20 kHz. The combination of both low conduction and switching losses make this module ideal for any application where high efficiency is critical—such as solar energy power inverters and electric drives, and power conversion for hybrid and electric vehicles.

The all-SiC module has been jointly developed using materials and assembly processes common in the industry, offering a clear path to volume production. The module can also be easily scaled for higher currents and the layout can be modified for other switch configurations.

“These 1200-Volt, 100-amp SiC MOSFET modules represent the next level of integration for SiC power devices. It represents a critical milestone in the technology progression toward high-reliability, energy-efficient power conditioning and control,” said Dr. John Palmour, Cree chief technology officer, power components and RF devices. “Further, the component-efficiency advantage of this technology is highly relevant in the current energy-conscious environment and could translate to significant energy savings for hybrid and electric vehicles, solar power inverters, and industrial motor drive systems.”

Dr. James Scofield, the power electronics section lead for AFRL’s Propulsion Directorate said, “As we have seen in the initial reliability-evaluation and electrical-testing of these modules, the practical realization of the SiC high-temperature, power, and frequency performance entitlement, on a pervasive scale, is coming to fruition. With its inherent high-temperature operational capability, this technology will be widely applicable to high-reliability military and commercial-system power conversion applications.”

For more information about the companies and organizations involved in this work, please refer to their respective websites:
* United States Air Force Research Laboratory:
* United States Army Research Laboratory:
* Powerex:
* Cree:

About Cree
Cree is a market-leading innovator of semiconductor solutions for wireless and power applications, lighting-class LEDs, and LED lighting solutions.

Cree’s product families include power-switching devices and radio-frequency/wireless devices, blue and green LED chips, high-brightness LEDs, lighting-class power LEDs, and recessed LED down lights. Cree solutions are driving improvements in applications such as variable-speed motors, wireless communications, general illumination, backlighting and electronic signs and signals.

For additional product and company information, please refer to

About Powerex
Powerex is a leading supplier of discrete, modular and integrated high-power semiconductor solutions. Powerex’s broad product line—including IGBTs; IPMs; DIP-IPMs; Discrete Rectifiers and Thyristors; and Thyristor and Diode Modules—is enhanced by its divisions devoted to the development of custom modules and customer-specific assemblies.

This press release contains forward-looking statements involving risks and uncertainties, both known and unknown, that may cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated. Actual results may differ materially due to a number of factors, including such as the risk we may be unable to develop and release commercial products with performance ratings comparable to the demonstration results described above; the possibility we may be unable to manufacture these products with sufficiently low cost to offer them at competitive prices or with acceptable margins; the potential lack of customer acceptance of the products; the rapid development of new technology and competing products that may impair demand or render Cree’s products obsolete; and other factors discussed in Cree’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including its report on Form 10-K for the year ended June 29, 2008, and subsequent filings.

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