TU/e PhD candidate awarded prize for more reliable electronics

PhD candidate Erik Lemmen has been granted the Semikron Young Engineer Award 2016 for a technology that makes power electronics more reliable. Lemmen developed his invention, the extended commutation cell, within the framework of his doctorate work in the Electromechanics & Power Electronics (EPE) group. He received the prize – a certificate and an amount of three thousand euros - earlier this month during the International Conference on Power Electronics Systems in Nuremberg.

Nowadays if anything breaks down in power electronics – equipment within which voltages are controlled, switched and converted – then it is nearly always the (semiconductor) switches, as the PhD candidate explains. That is why it is often decided to load the switches as little as possible, by designing the electronics for much higher voltages than are actually applied. “As a result, they will last longer, but they all fail at length”, says Lemmen.

There has to be another way, he thought, by making all the components in the voltage converter work together in a cleverer manner. Thanks to his extended commutation cell the failure of a switch in the device is absorbed by automatically sidestepping the faulty component. “Consequently, in an electric car, for example, you do lose some power, but you can still drive to the repair shop at one hundred kilometers per hour instead of at one hundred and twenty. The same as with a combustion engine, which will keep on running if a sparking plug breaks down.” 

Source: TU/e Cursor