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Power core module integrates FPGA and hybrid drive stage for electric aircraft

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty


The PCM integrates a field programmable gate array (FPGA) and hybrid power drive (HPD) stage to control the electrical motors used in applications such as primary flight control actuation, landing gear systems and other systems. It also links to the aircraft power supplies and flight controllers to provide vital sensor feedback for health monitoring. 

The move toward more electric aircraft (MEA) continues to drive demand for increased levels of reliability and integration in the area of power electronics. ”As an aircraft designer, Airbus is constantly concerned with improvements in safety and performance through the adoption of new technologies such as flight control surfaces with electric actuators, forward facing crew cockpits and control systems with side sticks,” said Alain Sagansan, Airbus research project leader. “Research studies on future architectures show the increased integration of standard modules with resulting logistical benefits. This paves the way for the adoption of new technologies as we move toward MEA solutions.”

The design centre in Ennis is the company’s centre of excellence for aerospace power technology. “We are building upon our design-in success on current day MEA platforms with innovative power module construction to develop a portfolio of intelligent power conversion systems,” said Siobhan Dolan Clancy, vice president and general manager of Microsemi’s Discrete Products Group. “With our growing investment in system-level engineering support and design services, we serve as an extension of our customers’ design teams as we develop solutions for aerospace applications that are optimised for power density, performance, cost and reliability. Our aerospace PCM leverages our extensive expertise in IGBTs, SiC MOSFETs, diodes, FPGAs and power modules, bringing together the most advanced capabilities from our worldwide development team and Aviation Centre of Excellence.”

The actuator, electrical and electronics systems market was valued at $8 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 14 percent to reach $21 billion by 2020. according to global market research and consulting company MarketsandMarkets. The electrical systems are expected to grow at a CAGR of 16 percent while the electronics components market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 13 percent. 

The PCM is aimed at actuation and power conversion applications, including landing systems, de-icing systems, wheels and braking systems, high lift, and primary and secondary flight control actuation systems. The partnership with Airbus means the module has been designed for harsh environments and has undergone a comprehensive application-specific qualification and reliability program.

The Airbus design accommodates a wide range of voltages, including the emerging 540 volt supply rail being introduced on the latest generation of commercial aircraft. The design process is structured on the DO-254 quality standard.

“The collaboration between Airbus and Microsemi aims to enhance the ever-important onboard electronic performance,” said Michel Todeschi, Airbus senior expert. “The Microsemi team’s technological mastery in semiconductors, power modules and control electronics enables us to propose these adapted and optimized solutions. The electric actuators with integrated PCMs provide solutions to increase equipment maturity and reliability while reducing the cost.” 

The aerospace PCM with the embedded HPD is available for sampling and evaluation kits will be available to order in December. For more information, including datasheets and application notes, visit www.microsemi.com/applications/commercial-aviation


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