As set forth in a recent NASA Technology Roadmap, the current state of the art for a space radiation hardened power distribution component is limited to below 200 V. To achieve the technology performance goal of above 300 V for the derated semiconductor operating voltage, new technologies are needed. An example immediate benefit of space hardened high voltage part is that they would enable next generation high-power electric propulsion systems. Use of a wide bandgap semiconductor such as silicon carbide is also likely to increase their efficiency.
The mature silicon technology lacks solutions. Wide bandgap solutions are needed to achieve radiation tolerant high voltage devices. Silicon carbide power devices offer a unique opportunity; however, they need hardening by design and process.
We propose design and fabrication of novel lateral and vertical silicon carbide power devices. The overarching goal is to provide NASA with radiation tolerant silicon carbide-based power switches tolerant of heavy ions with LETs of at least 40 MeVcm2/mg. The target is to develop above 300 V radiation tolerant power devices to meet the NASA Technology Roadmap high voltage power device goal. To achieve this, we propose 1) to perform several heavy ion tests of power devices, 2) to pursue physics-based simulations, and 3) to fabricate our designs at a commercial foundry. As we iterate between experiments, design and fabrication, we will converge on a power solution that can be mass produced at demand.
These radiation hardened devices address the capability performance goals of a) developing basic power building blocks for multiple applications, and b) distributing power at increased voltage to lower overall power system mass. Our silicon carbide electronics is additionally capable of addressing technology performance goal of power distribution components and interconnects at high temperatures.
For high voltage applications such as those needed for thrusters, solar panels, electric propulsion systems, and power channels such as those used on International Space Station (ISS), our technology can eliminate some of the existing design constraints, and give rise weight and volume savings. This technology can enable integration and implementation of next generation energy efficient and reliable high voltage and power systems into these applications.
The market for outer space electronics is very large, and the overall satellite industry growth has been outpacing both world and US economic growths in recent years. Given the total size of the outer space budgets, a radiation hardened high voltage component is likely to generate substantial revenue while offering the same efficiency and weight saving benefits in non-NASA space applications