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Power Electronics Thermal Management

A photo of water boiling in liquid cooling lab equipment.

Power electronics thermal management research aims to help lower the cost and improve the performance of electric-drive vehicles.
Photo by Dennis Schroeder, NREL

NREL investigates and develops thermal management strategies for power electronics systems that use wide-bandgap technology, which enables the development of devices that are smaller than those based on other materials, demonstrating significantly higher performance and using less power.

Thermal research at the module level focuses on die- and substrate-integrated cooling strategies and heat-transfer enhancement technologies. System-level thermal research and analysis supports the development of thermal management strategies for the entire power electronics system, which enable packaging solutions to increase power density and reduce cost.

Thermal and cooling specifications for components within the inverter/DC-DC converter are being determined to inform a feasibility study of several innovative cooling strategies. The study is using modeling to identify the most promising technologies for fabrication and experimental characterization. Research is also informing cooling concept prototype development, testing, refinement, and demonstration. NREL is taking a system-level approach for all inverter or converter components. Alternate cooling modes to meet rare or intermittent extreme cooling requirements, subsystem- or component-targeted cooling, and cooling for different subsystem functions are being investigated and developed.

NREL's power electronics thermal management research includes:

  • Performing thermal modeling of emerging inverter and DC-DC converters based on wide-bandgap and/or high-temperature devices

  • Investigating the impact of higher temperature on power electronics system components, including capacitors and gate drivers

  • Developing novel cooling technologies for emerging inverter/converter configurations based on wide-bandgap and/or high-temperature devices.