GE, Fraunhofer Building Solar Electronics Lifetime Prediction Tool


GE has partnered with the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM to develop a new method to forecast the remaining life time of solar power electronics, such as insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs). The first prototype of this measurement system will be presented in Berlin in September.

Constant load fluctuations burden the power electronics of solar inverters in PV plants, which increases the risk of sudden plant failure. Up to now, it was almost impossible to safely predict the service life of power semiconductors, according to the companies.

The joint project, known as Condition Monitoring für Leistungselektronik in der Fotovoltaik (CoMoLeFo) or Condition Monitoring for Power Electronics in Photovoltaics, has focused on the identification and detection of relevant aging mechanisms of insulated gate bipolar transistor power modules.

IGBTs are switch elements designed for high-power levels and constitute the central component of modern inverters. Mathematical algorithms and measuring data are now able to make precise assessments concerning the condition of semiconductors during operation. This enables a forecast of the remaining life time of an IGBT and, therefore, conditions-based maintenance, according to the companies.

CoMoLeFo is based on two complementary processes: One process indirectly determines the chip temperature by measuring relevant electrical parameters of the IGBT during operation. The other process monitors the parameter shift due to aging. In this way, the remaining life time of the IGBTs can be determined by a software-based remote diagnostic system.

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