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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Materials & technologies projects > New electronic components stay cool when the going gets hot
Graphic element New electronic components stay cool when the going gets hot
    11-12-2000
 

The close monitoring and control of processes is fundamental in the manufacturing and production industries, but conventional electronic monitoring devices can only operate reliably at ambient temperatures of up to 125°C. Monitoring of processes at higher temperatures has traditionally required the use of more complex and less efficient systems. The REDHOT project is tackling the problem of how to build specialised electronic devices that can operate directly within hostile environments, including close to automobile engines and in deep petroleum exploration wells.

High Temperature Electronics (HTE) refers to the operation of electronic devices at temperatures greater than 125°C. Up to now, the monitoring of processes within such environments has involved the use of special transducers linked via long cables to higher order control and analytical functions. Such systems are highly vulnerable to electromagnetic and radio frequency interference, resulting in high levels of measurement noise. In addition, elaborate and expensive techniques for thermal management and cooling of densely packaged devices are required, further degrading system performance.

HTE devices offer significant potential benefits to many industries now coming under increasing pressure to improve efficiency and environmental performance, especially in energy-intensive sectors. Integrated electronic devices operating reliably within the environments they monitor would be lighter, faster, more responsive and would give more accurate measurements.

A potential $17 billion market has been identified for high temperature electronic components which would make possible the development of new and more efficient monitoring systems, reducing costs, material waste and pollution. It represents major opportunities for European industry.

The project
Launched in January of 1998, the REDHOT project has brought together leading HTE players from the UK, France, Germany and Belgium. Its aim is to further the understanding of the failure modes of electronic systems within high temperature environments. In-depth studies in reliability physics will provide qualitative and quantitative information and predictive models will be developed, as well as HTE design tools and testing methodologies. The newly obtained knowledge will allow the assembly of more reliable fully-packaged Multi-Chip Modules for electronic monitoring and control within high temperature environments.

According to Bob Peat of AEA Technology in Oxfordshire, a number of obstacles had to be overcome on the road to achieving the project's goals. First, existing commercial electronic components were tested for use in high-temperature applications. The project's academic partner, the Limburg University Centre in Belgium has investigated a variety of capacitors, resistors, and other components by means of several analytical and high resolution in-situ techniques.

Once appropriate components are identified, they can be used in assembling new composite monitoring systems. "We're talking about a complete multi-chip package," says Peat. "Everything necessary for electronic monitoring is assembled and then encapsulated, using advanced wire bonding methods and new moulding compounds. These devices can then be placed directly into hostile environments."

Interest from industry

Three industrial sectors in particular, two of which are represented in the REDHOT partnership, have provided the main driving force behind the development of HTE technology. They are expected to account for over 90% of the demand over the next 10 years. They are the petroleum exploration, automotive and aerospace sectors.

Petroleum exploration involves the drilling of well holes of up to 2 km in length and the transmission of sensory data from the ends of these holes back to the drilling rig. Here temperatures often reach 200°, pressures can reach 20 000 psi, the vibration is phenomenal and the mixture of water and oil can be very troublesome for standard sensors. Not surprisingly, petroleum explorers have been leading sponsors of HTE development for the past 20 years. Project partner Schlumberger Industries of France will use the newly developed REDHOT devices in its oil exploration operations, placing them at the ends of their drilling tools.

Project partner Daimler Chrysler represents the automotive sector. Here, electric control units have to operate within engine compartments and sensors are placed near manifolds where temperatures can reach more than 160°C. Temperatures near catalytic converters can reach 450°C and exhaust monitoring can involve temperatures as high as 850°C. Daimler Chrysler plans to use REDHOT results to increase electronics reliability.

In the aerospace industry there is a significant demand for monitoring systems for engine operation, exhaust systems, and electronic braking. Many other industries will also benefit from the commercial availability of HTE, including control electronics for the monitoring of industrial processes, nuclear power plant operation and even spacecraft electronics. A range of generic power applications such as the replacement of hydraulic systems with small high-torque electric motors is also envisaged.

Finally, the Limburg University Centre will allow Destin, a Belgian company, to market the newly developed reliability software and instrumentation in a wide range of European and international industries.

"Satisfaction with the project is high indeed. With only four participants, this is a small partnership that has come a long way," AEA's Bob Peat concludes.

For more information about THE, visit the 'High Temperature Electronics Network' (supported by the European Commission) at : http://www.hiten.com/

   
The project
Interest from industry
   

Key data

A new generation of devices for electronic monitoring and control at high temperatures are being developed under the Growth Programme's New materials and production technologies generic activity.

REDHOT : Reliability physics and electronics design for high operating temperatures (BRPR970596)

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