The SaSHa Project (Si-on-SiC for the Harsh Environment of Space) received €1M of funding from the European Commission's 2015 H2020 Competitiveness of the European Space Sector call (COMPET-03-2015: Bottom-up space technologies at low TRL). This 2-year project, which began in February 2016, brings together experts from across the value chain of semiconductor device design, fabrication and testing to produce a new generation of power devices designed to operate efficiently within the unique environment of space.
Current and future space applications that can benefit from improved power solutions include ion propulsion technologies, used for drag compensation in ESA’s GOCE Satellite and in delivering the BepiColombo spacecraft to Mercury. Furthermore, a drive for high voltage distribution to reduce cable weight in numerous satellite and explorer applications will be enabled by high voltage electronics. However, the challenge of space is one of reliability and efficiency in extreme conditions, where both high and low temperatures are present as well as severe background radiation, that can slowly deteriorate, or even instantly destroy critical devices.
The SaSHa project is specifically focussed on accelerating the development of an entirely new generation of power electronics semiconductors devices benefitting both space and several terrestrial applications. Exploiting the high voltage and high temperature properties of SiC, and the electrical performance of Si and silicon-on-insulator technologies, the resulting power devices will be especially equipped to cope with the harsh environment of space. Proof of concept prototype power devices (diodes, lateral MOSFETs and lateral IGBTs) will be developed that incorporate a novel Si-on-SiC (Si/SiC) substrate solution into state-of-the-art device architectures. The resulting power devices will be capable of working at voltage ratings from 50 to 600 V, in extreme radiation conditions and at temperatures up to 300°C, characteristics unavailable in the current power market, let alone for space.