2 August 2010


USAF awards GE $7m to demo SiC-switched solid-state primary power distribution technology

GE Aviation of Oshkosh, WI, USA (an operating unit of GE that provides jet engines, components and integrated systems for commercial and military aircraft) has announced an R&D contract worth more than $7m to provide the first solid-state primary power distribution technology using silicon carbide (SiC) power switches applicable to the latest and future US Air Force platforms. The contracting office is Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Air Force Research Laboratories in Ohio.

“Solid-state switching is critical to the smart-grid concept of intelligent power management, control and protection,” says Austin Schaffter, vice president, Electrical Power Systems for GE Aviation. “This is a critical win and proves that the technologies and products that we are investing in are at the cutting edge of the industry,” he adds. “Aircraft electrical power system designs and architectures are rapidly evolving toward higher degrees of both intelligence and fast control, and the SSEDU is a critical technology step in that evolutionary path.”

An electrical distribution unit (EDU) is the first or primary power distribution point on an aircraft after the generators create the electrical power, and historically that initial power distribution has been accomplished by relatively slow electro-mechanical contactors.

However, evidence is growing rapidly that more electric aircraft need fast, intelligent switching at the primary distribution point in order to manage both peak power and regenerative energy absorption, and to perform system protections within as little as 1ms. Accomplishing high-power switching this fast is possible with emerging SiC devices such as those being designed and developed at GE’s Global Research Center (GRC) in Niskayuna, NY, the firm says.

The project includes the design, development, fabrication, test and shipment of a prototype solid-state electrical distribution unit, and will be executed within GE’s advanced engineering group’s facilities at the Vandalia, Ohio and Cheltenham, UK.

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