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.
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.
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.
$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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
of France will use the newly developed REDHOT devices in its oil
exploration operations, placing them at the ends of their drilling
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.
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
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.
with the project is high indeed. With only four participants, this
is a small partnership that has come a long way," AEA's Bob
more information about THE, visit the 'High Temperature Electronics
Network' (supported by the European Commission) at : http://www.hiten.com/