UK Researchers Develop High Temp OP AMP in SiC
Newcastle University has partnered up with Raytheon UK to develop silicon carbide (SiC) based amplifier circuitry with the characteristics of operational amplifiers. Up until now silicon carbide semiconductors have been power electronics and exploited the material’s ability to dissipate internally-generated heat but for this project the focus has been on creating circuitry that can operate in high temperatures and other equally harsh environments opines Dr. Alton Horsfall who is the Reader in Semiconductor Technology at Newcastle University. The research utilized the thermal characteristics of silicon carbide in small-signal circuitry that operates in high temperatures as opposed to high power devices. According to researchers, the improvement in hostile environments is due to the amplifier circuit which is based on lateral small-signal junction field effect transistors (JFET). This will lead to greater stability in the threshold voltage and will reduce the intrinsic noise which makes the structures suitable for the realization of high temperatures, low noise amplifier circuitry.
While the current circuit is a fully differential, three stage amplifier, modifications will enable voltage supplies of +/-45V to be utilized to increase the voltage headroom of the circuit. In fact laboratory tests have shown that the amplifier circuit has an open circuit gain in excess of nearly 1,500 at room temperature. This has been limited by the passive components used in the circuit and manifested in the high temperature gain of 200 and recorded at 400 deg C. Within the various harsh environment industries such as oil, gas, aerospace and geothermal energy/nuclear, the amplifier is most likely to be used in monitoring and closed-loop control circuitry applications. The business development manager of Raytheon UK’s semiconductors business unit, Phil Burnside states that they are not the only ones exploring the suitability of silicon carbide for full commercialization of the high temperature version of a fundamental electronic building block, the operational amplifier. Indeed much more work is left to be done and Burnside believes wholeheartedly that Newcastle University’s design expertise and understanding of harsh environment coupled with their pioneering work in silicon carbide will put them at the forefront of a massive breakthrough in the near future.
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