Managing High-Temperature Electronics Environments Down to the Component Level

Posted by Victor Lu on Sep 15, 2021 9:00:00 AM
Victor Lu

As complex electronic systems become more prevalent in our daily lives, the demand for high-temperature, high-reliability components continues to increase. Standard electronic components have an operating temperature of -55 °C to 125 °C, but the number of applications requiring functionality above 125 °C is growing. Components in these applications, like capacitors, must maintain their functionality and take the heat (literally and figuratively) while powered. To meet the brief, material and design of these high-temperature components must deviate from today’s standard.

AdobeStock_303536911Initially, applications like down-hole oil and gas drilling were better known for having high-temperature component needs. Down-hole operations require drilling several kilometers into the earth’s surface with working conditions exceeding 200 °C. The deeper the drilling operation, the more resilient components need to be. If components can’t reliably perform under high temperatures, it’s very difficult to repair or replace a failed component when operations are in progress deep underground. This kind of interruption could cause work to halt, leading to significant financial loss.

In reality, high-temperature applications are all around us, and we expect everyday electronics to withstand more and more extreme conditions. While there’s always been a need for high-temperature components in automotive applications, rapid growth in the electric vehicle (EV) space is creating a wider dependency on electrical systems. Circuit operations, near or on the engine of a vehicle, have always required careful consideration, but electric vehicles demand a lot more. Energy density supports converters, motor controls, charging circuits, etc., but that density cultivates a high-temperature environment for functional components. A study by engineers at the University of Toronto found that 90% of light-duty cars (on American roads) would need to be electric by 2050 to align the transportation sector with the Paris climate accord’s emissions goals; the demand for high-temperature electronic components will continue to rise as designers and manufacturers look to align themselves.

The avionics industry is seeing similar changes in response to our global climate conditions. The More Electric Aircraft (MEA) program aims to advance avionics from mechanical to electric, beginning with a hybrid aircraft model. One of their major initiatives aims to replace traditional engine controllers with distributed control systems; this change eliminates the need for hundreds of conductors and reduces system complexity. There are several benefits here, including reduced weight and improved reliability, but it forces the electrical systems closer to the engine, where temperatures can be as high as 200 °C.

More Open Electrical Technology (MOET), funded by FP6, is also looking for an electrical avionics solution. Their system relies on electrical actuators that are driven through power electronic converters. Placement is critical; converters should be placed near the actuator they control. If placement requires close proximity to the jet engine, components could experience up to 225 °C. Both of these avionics approaches require high-temperature components to accommodate different methods of advancing electronic systems while maintaining high reliability.

Component manufacturers need to support advancement in the electronics space through innovation in their own right. Knowles Precision Devices (KPD) offers a variety of rigorously tested high-temperature capacitors with extended operating temperatures ranging from -55 °C to 250 °C, and we want to keep innovating alongside you.

Contact our applications engineering team to discuss your upcoming project and how we can support your pursuits in high-temperature applications.

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