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Posted on 17 November 2019

Aluminium for Robust Electronics in Offshore Wind Farms

 

Researchers upgrade the metal to withstand extreme environments

A German consortium led by the Berlin Fraunhofer IZM is aiming to enhance aluminium for use in future applications with very high demands on durability. The HotAL* project, funded by the BMBF, is working on an innovative aluminium alloy that, owing to adapted ways of processing, ensures reliable electrical connections even under extreme conditions. With this technology, companies offering system solutions for energy installations such as offshore wind farms will be able to develop completely new manufacturing processes for robust systems. Maintenance requirements and the overall installation operating costs can be reduced.

Background: Innovation in Germany

Cost is, however, rarely the main element of competition for German power supply systems. Rather, in addition to innovative performance features, reliability and availability are crucial in securing and continuing to increase acceptance in global markets. Electronic components and the appropriate design and connection technology play a key role. The increasingly rapid expansion of the grid for renewable energy sources, resulting from the German energy transition strategy, means that power electronics manufacturers need to be able to supply the market with reliable systems.
In this respect, the high quality standard of German installations is both a benefit and a risk. The ever increasing demands of energy suppliers and the drive for reliability and sustainability are already creating significant challenges for systems development. Not only does this high performance level need to be achieved for offshore applications but to be extended with regard to the requirements of ‘Smart Grids’.
Although aluminium, as a low-cost material in power electronics with a proven engineering process, so far has not been suitable for use in high-temperature applications. The HotAL project means a high-temperature-optimised aluminium bonding technology for offshore applications. The ambitious aim is to improve power electronic modules for high-temperature applications using innovative materials and process management. This is made possible by the development of a new aluminium alloy, of which the true potential will be maximised by additional tempering processes as part of the power module assembly process.

Members of the consortium and project synergies

The consortium for the research project includes representation from the entire value chain – material and wire bonder manufacturers, system manufacturers for special thermal processes, and full system providers. This merges the tasks for the various fields that form part of the project in order to develop innovative power electronics based on aluminium for offshore applications. As well as being of benefit to the energy industry, including the relevant supply chains for electronic systems, German producers profit with systems for generating renewable energy as well as mechanical and plant engineering. In the past, pioneering concepts and standards from innovative branches of industry have often been transferred or adapted to other sectors. Due to the involvement of SEMIKRON, F&K Delvotec Bondtechnik and Rehm Thermal Systems, this project presents these synergies and that is the intention. Heraeus and Fraunhofer IZM will contribute their acquired expertise in the selective development of materials for the German electronics industry.

*The Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) has funded this joint project since 1/10/2019 as part of the ICT 2020 programme “Power Electronics for Improving Energy Efficiency”.

About SEMIKRON

SEMIKRON is one of the world's leading manufacturers of power modules and systems. Its products are at the heart of modern energy efficient motor drives and industrial automation systems. Further application areas include power supplies, renewable energies (wind and solar power) and utility vehicles. SEMIKRON's innovative power electronic products enable its customers to develop smaller, more energy efficient power electronic systems. These systems in turn reduce the global energy demand.

SEMIKRON is a family owned business founded in 1951, headquartered in Nuremberg, Germany. Today it has more than 2,800 employees in 30 subsidiaries world-wide. The international network of operational companies with production sites in Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Korea, Slovakia, South Africa, and the US ensures fast and comprehensive service for customers. SindoPower as a SEMIKRON-Group company serves customers world-wide with a B2B power electronics online portal, multi-language sales and technical support and eCommerce.

 

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