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Power Electronics Packaging Reliability

A photo of a piece of power electronics testing equipment.

NREL power electronics packaging reliability research investigates the performance and reliability of emerging interconnection, interface, and packaging materials. Findings help improve reliability and durability of emerging technologies.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

Power electronics packaging around a semiconductor switching device determines the electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties of a power electronics component. NREL researchers are characterizing the reliability of emerging packaging technologies that could potentially operate more efficiently and reliably under higher temperatures than current methods. These high-temperature-capable technologies, such as bonded interface materials, are a key enabling technology for compact, lightweight, low-cost, and reliable power electronics components in electric-drive vehicles.

Existing power electronics packages use silicon devices and lead-free solder alloys in their construction. Manufacturers of new power electronics components are transitioning to using devices with wide-bandgap materials in these components for improved performance, reliability, and cost. High-temperature bonded interface materials are an important facilitating technology for compact, lightweight, low-cost, reliable power electronics packaging that fully utilizes the capabilities of wide-bandgap devices. NREL research on high-temperature bonded interface materials can be roughly classified into three categories: silver sintering, high-temperature soldering, and transient liquid-phase sintering.

Sintered-silver materials operated continuously look promising for reducing the degradation of power electronics packages at temperatures of 200°C or higher. NREL is characterizing the reliability of sintered-silver materials and processes from a variety of manufacturers to develop a baseline of sintered-silver bond reliability. In addition, NREL is developing tools that can predict the reliability and life of sintered silver, enabling a time- and cost-effective design process. The performance and reliability of emerging techniques, such as atomic-level bonding, are also under investigation as a longer-term development goal.