20 June 2023
Airbus and ST collaborate on SiC and GaN power electronics for aircraft electrification
Aerospace & defence firm Airbus of Toulouse, France and integrated device manufacturer STMicroelectronics of Geneva, Switzerland have signed an agreement to cooperate on power electronics R&D to support more efficient and lighter power electronics, essential for future hybrid-powered aircraft and full-electric urban air vehicles.
The collaboration builds on evaluations already conducted by both companies to explore the benefits of wide-bandgap semiconductor materials for aircraft electrification. Due to their superior electrical properties compared with silicon, silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN) enable the development of smaller, lighter and more efficient high-performance electronic devices and systems, particularly in applications requiring high-power, high-frequency or high-temperature operation.
The cooperation will focus on developing SiC and GaN devices, packages and modules adapted for Airbus’ aerospace applications. The firms will assess these components by conducting research and tests on demonstrators, such as e-motor control units, high- and low-voltage power converters, and wireless power transfer systems.
The collaboration with ST will be key to support Airbus’ electrification roadmap, says Airbus’ chief technical officer Sabine Klauke. “Leveraging their expertise and experience in power electronics for automotive and industrial applications with our own record in aircraft and VTOL [vertical take-off and landing] electrification will help us accelerate the development of the disruptive technologies required for the ZEROe roadmap and CityAirbus NextGen,” she adds.
“We already have a strong, transformational presence in mobility and industrial applications, reinforced by a vertically integrated global SiC supply chain, to support our customers globally with electrification and decarbonization,” says Jerome Roux, president, sales & marketing, STMicroelectronics. “Aerospace is a highly demanding market with specific requirements. Cooperating with Airbus, a global leader in this industry, gives us the opportunity to define together new power technologies the industry needs to realise its decarbonisation goals.”
Airbus’ hybridization and electrification roadmap
Decarbonizing flight requires a range of disruptive solutions that mix new fuel types and disruptive technologies. One such solution, hybrid-electric propulsion, can improve the energy efficiency of every aircraft class and reduce aircraft CO2 emissions by up to 5%. That figure could be as high as 10% for helicopters, which are generally lighter than fixed-wing aircraft. Future hybrid and full-electric aircraft require megawatts of power to operate. This implies huge improvements in power electronics in terms of integration, performance, efficiency, and component size and weight.