Power semiconductors: European research

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One of the most significant European research projects on the topic of energy efficiency was launched three years ago. Now, at the end of May, it will come to an end with results that could have significantly affect important aspects of industry and our daily lives.

Unlike many of its electronics relatives, power electronics rarely makes headlines in magazines and newspapers. And wrongfully so, because it is the key to a number of innovations in the automobile, in industry, in energy technologies and in illumination and medical technology. It consists of a number of different electronic components and power semiconductors. And they guarantee the efficient generation, transmission and use of electrical energy.

They make sure that the greatest possible amount of energy generated by wind or sun is fed into the power grid and transmitted almost completely without loss over many thousands of kilometers on its way to the consumer. Then it reduces energy consumption in electronic devices, machines, electric automobiles and production facilities.

Making these power-celectronics onverters even smaller and more energy efficient and manufacturing them in large quantities calls for new housing and chip-integration technologies (more-than-Moore approach).

So the European eRamp project (eRamp – Excellence in Speed and Reliability for More than Moore Technologies) united 26 partners from throughout Europe under the leadership of Infineon Technologies. The project focused on the more rapid introduction of new manufacturing techniques as well as housing technologies for energy-saving chips. eRamp covered the entire power-electronics value chain, from generation and transmission to consumption.

Production expertise for power semiconductors

The research results were tested for practical viability directly in the semiconductor production environment. The research partners used existing pilot lines and comprehensive production expertise at five sites:

  • Dresden, Germany and Villach, Austria (power semiconductors based on 300mm wafers; Infineon)
  • Regensburg, Germany (chip packaging technologies for power semiconductors; Infineon)
  • Reutlingen, Germany (power semiconductors, smart power and sensors based on 200mm wafers; Bosch)
  • Unterpremstaetten near Graz, Austria (3D/TSV pilot line; ams)

In addition, Infineon, Osram, and Siemens worked together to construct testing equipment and demonstrators for the evaluation of a new chip embedding technology.

Europe’s key projects for strengthening the electronics industry

The “eRamp – Excellence in Speed and Reliability for More than More Technologies“ project was financially supported by the European funding initiative ENIAC Joint Undertaking, as well as by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the largest national sponsor. eRamp is part of European research series dedicated to the development of power electronics based on 300mm wafers. Other projects in this series include EPT300, EPPL and PowerBase.

Packaging technology for power semiconductors (Image: Infineon)

Power semiconductors require innovative packaging technology. (Image: Infineon).