Power semiconductor devices and power electronics
Power electronics is the discipline of controlling, converting and conditioning electrical power using power solid state electronic devices (also known as power semiconductors or power semiconductor devices). Advancements in many sectors, such as the automotive, aerospace, traction and consumer electronics are indeed coupled to the advancements in power electronics; specifically, to the target of achieving increased power handling capability, increased efficiency of electric power conversion and of reducing size, weight and cost of the power converters. These are underpinned by the technological advancements achieved through Semiconductor Engineering in power semiconductor device design and semiconductor materials.
Silicon is currently the semiconductor material of choice for power electronics. Emerging wide bandgap semiconductor materials such as the Silicon Carbide (SiC) and the Gallium Nitride (GaN) have superior electrical characteristics compared to Silicon (Si). As a result, when used in power electronic converters, a real step-improvement in performance, efficiency and the ability to operate at elevated temperatures can be achieved. In hybrid and electric vehicles, the electric powertrain requires less cooling and it becomes more efficient if wide band gap semiconductor devices are used in the power electronics system. Further, the range and “fuel” economy of the vehicle increases and more cabin area becomes available. Similar benefits arise when wide bandgap power devices are used in other applications, for example in power transmission systems, in conditioning power from wind and solar farms, consumer electronics, smart grids and so on.
My research includes addressing issues associated with the functionality, efficient performance and reliability of power semiconductor devices. To achieve that, I combine modelling, simulation, design, fabrication and testing.
Other research interests
My research interests also include the condition monitoring of power electronic converters but also the degradation and state of health of batteries for automotive applications.
Currently participating in one of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) five flagship Underpinning Power Electronics (UPE) projects. Each of the three-year £1.2-£1.4 million projects focuses on a different aspect of the power electronics supply chain with the aim of creating new devices and applications to fully realise the energy saving potential of this emerging technology.
Partnering Cambridge, Newcastle and Warwick on the ‘switch optimisation’ theme, we will be developing ultrahigh voltage silicon carbide (SiC) n-IGBTs. With voltage ratings over 10 kV, nearly 10 times the voltage rating of any SiC device on the open market, SiC insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) have the potential to make considerable gains in efficiency for the National grid, e.g. when connecting off-shore wind power to the network.
Open Research Positions
Please contact me directly for up-to-date opportunities. Exemplary current or recent research topics are shown below.
Successful candidates will be based at the Power Electronics, Machines and Control Group, within the Faculty of Engineering of the University of Nottingham. The group is one of the largest, most well equipped, and most recognised groups in its field worldwide. Depending on how eligibility criteria are met, Home/EU candidates may be entitled to full award (stipend and full fees) and International candidates may be entitled to a partial award (full or partial PhD tuition fees).
The successful candidate is expected to be highly motivated, and to have First or Upper Second-class degree in Electrical, Electronics or Physics.
PhD in Power Electronics with focus on Wide Bandgap Power Semiconductor Device Technologies for High Power Electrified Systems and Application
Wide bandgap power semiconductors, particularly Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN) have advanced electrical properties compared to Silicon (Si). When utilised in existing and new power electronic systems, a step improvement in terms of efficiency, power density, operating limits, and functionality can be achieved. For high power applications such as the smart grid, grid-level renewables, full electric ships, drives for electric trains or specialised high-power instruments and electric vehicles, high voltage and hundreds or thousands of amperes need to be handled. For that, SiC and GaN devices offer distinct advantages over Si mainly due to the large bandgap. SiC and GaN can sustain higher electric field, operate at higher temperature, require reduced cooling and the can switch significantly faster. However, many challenges remain unresolved. Designing those devices able to handle the required high current, whilst also supporting high voltage is a difficult task, packaging them with without compromising their operation is challenging whilst their reliability and controllability lack compared to Si.
Applicants are invited to undertake a 3 to 4 years PhD programme to investigate the performance and reliability of high power SiC and GaN device technologies. The aim is to increase our understanding of the performance limits of these wide bandgap power semiconductors, how to design, fabricate, package and test existing and novel device structures which can outperform the state-of-the-art. It will be addressed both theoretically and experimentally.
PhD in Reliable power conversion through condition monitoring of power semiconductors and electronics
Power Electronics Converters are exceptionally important in systems that operate in changeable, isolated, challenging environments or where the degradation of operation can potentially be life threatening. Practical examples of scenarios which would benefit from the integration of Condition Monitoring include; offshore wind turbines, aerospace power supplies, traction drives and electric vehicles.
MRes in Reliable and compact high performance power electronics in electric and hybrid vehicles through power semiconductor engineering
Master in power semiconductor engineering for the development of high performance and reliable power semiconductor devices. The focus of the project will be to design devices that mitigate from issues that cause reliability problems and fully exploit the advanced characteristics of wide band gap semiconductors.
Selected research outcomes
Advanced semiconductor device models with Technology Computer Aided Design (TCAD) tools
Advanced modelling of power devices allows the accurate simulation of failure phenomena and the explanation of the failure mechanisms in devices.
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, F. Udrea, I. Nistor, M. Arnold, T. Wikstrom, J. Vobecky, and T. Wikström, “Experimentally validated three dimensional GCT wafer level simulations,” in IEEE International Symposium on Power Semiconductor Devices and ICs (ISPSD), 2012.
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, F. Udrea, T. Wikstroem, and I. Nistor, “Turn-off failure mechanism in large area IGCTs,” in IEEE International Semiconductor Conference (CAS), 2011, vol. 2, pp. 361–364.
Performance and efficiency: Novel structures and optimisation
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, U. Vemulapati, M. Arnold, I. Nistor, J. Vobecky, M. Rahimo, and F. Udrea, “New Bi-Mode Gate-Commutated Thyristor Design Concept for High-Current Controllability and Low ON-State Voltage Drop,” IEEE Electron Device Letters, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 467–470, Apr. 2016.
- M. Antoniou, N. Lophitis, F. Bauer, I. Nistor, M. Bellini, M. Rahimo, G. Amaratunga, and F. Udrea, “Novel Approach Toward Plasma Enhancement in Trench-Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors,” IEEE Electron Device Letters, vol. 36, no. 8, pp. 823–825, Aug. 2015.
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, F. Udrea, U. Vemulapati, M. Arnold, I. Nistor, J. Vobecky, and M. Rahimo, “Improving Current Controllability in Bi-Mode Gate Commutated Thyristors,” IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, vol. 62, no. 7, pp. 2263–2269, Jul. 2015.
- J. Vobecky, N. Lophitis, M. Arnold, T. Wikström, I. Nistor, M. Antoniou, and F. Udrea, “Parameters influencing the maximum controllable current in gate commutated thyristors,” IET Circuits, Devices & Systems, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 221–226, May 2014.
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, F. Udrea, I. Nistor, M. T. Rahimo, M. Arnold, T. Wikstroem, and J. Vobecky, “Gate Commutated Thyristor With Voltage Independent Maximum Controllable Current,” IEEE Electron Device Letters, vol. 34, no. 8, pp. 954–956, Aug. 2013.
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, F. Udrea, F. D. Bauer, I. Nistor, M. Arnold, T. Wikstrom, and J. Vobecky, “The Destruction Mechanism in GCTs,” IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 819–826, Feb. 2013.
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, F. Udrea, U. Vemulapati, M. Arnold, M. Rahimo, and J. Vobecky, “4.5kV Bi-mode Gate Commutated Thyristor design with High Power Technology and shallow diode-anode,” in IEEE International Symposium on Power Semiconductor Devices and ICs (ISPSD), 2016, pp. 371–374.
- U. Vemulapati, M. Arnold, M. Rahimo, J. Vobecky, T. Stiasny, N. Lophitis, and F. Udrea, “An Experimental Demonstration of a 4.5 kV Bi-mode Gate Commutated Thyristor (BGCT),” in IEEE International Symposium on Power Semiconductor Devices and ICs (ISPSD), 2015, pp. 109 – 112.
- M. Antoniou, N. Lophitis, F. Udrea, F. Bauer, I. Nistor, M. Bellini, and M. Rahimo, “Experimental demonstration of the p-ring Trench IGBT concept: A new design for minimizing the conduction losses,” in IEEE International Symposium on Power Semiconductor Devices and ICs (ISPSD), 2015, vol. 2015-June, pp. 21–24.
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, F. Udrea, M. Rahimo, I. Nistor, M. Arnold, T. Wikstrom, J. Vobecky, and M. Rahimo, “The Stripe Fortified GCT : A new GCT design for maximizing the controllable current,” in IEEE International Symposium on Power Semiconductor Devices and ICs (ISPSD), 2014, pp. 123–126.
- N. Lophitis, M. Antoniou, F. Udrea, I. Nistor, M. Arnold, T. Wikström, and J. Vobecky, “Optimization of Parameters influencing the Maximum Controllable Current in Gate Commutated Thyristors,” in IET International Seminar on Power Semiconductors (ISPS), 2012.