Materials For Next Generation Of Electrical Insulation

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Researchers explored new materials for electrical insulation and packaging, and that can remove heat more effectively than existing technologies.

Materials in electronics have opened up a path for high-performance devices that has never been thought before. Further advances aim to increase device density, and with that heat generation increases. There is a need to redesign electrical infrastructure because we are putting more and more stress on the electrical grid, demand faster computer processing, and push toward electrical transportation. The semiconductor devices powering these devices and infrastructure generate a significant amount of heat that can cause failure.

These devices need to be electrically isolated and protected, and for that, newer insulation materials have to be explored. As the electronics industry is progressing forward, newer insulation is being developed worldwide to meet ever-increasing performance and reliability demands.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Lab are exploring new materials for electrical insulation and packaging that can remove heat effectively. 

“An electrical grid caters to millions of homes and businesses and handles thousands of amps of current,” said Vaibhav Bahadur, co-author of a new paper published in Proceedings of the IEEE and an associate professor of thermal fluids systems in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. “We are talking about pretty significant heat generation, high voltages and the ability to survive extreme temperatures, which will only get worse in a changing climate.”

“The key problem we’ve identified is that improving thermal conductivity alone is not good enough,” Bahadur said. “You need a more holistic understanding of materials and multifunctional materials to meet electrical, thermal and mechanical requirements.”

As Bahadur said, focusing on thermal conductivity is not enough. For getting necessary lifespan, performance  and reliability, it is critical to ensure that materials have large electrical resistance, tolerance to extreme temperatures, ability to handle mechanical stress and resistance to moisture. All of these properties have to be improved at the same time.

“A comprehensive assessment of these new nanomaterials has not been done before,” said Robert Hebner, research professor at the Walker Department, director of UT’s Center for Electromechanics and paper co-author. “This article is a roadmap for the development of future materials. We provide a critical review and perspectives to the materials community from an engineering and reliability perspective.”


 

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