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Development of Silicon Carbide devices for next generation surge protection circuitry & power electronics.

Key Information

Supervisors: Dr M Jennings, Prof O Guy and Dr S Russell.

Expected Interview Date: late June 2020.

Bourns, Inc, is a global company with a strong Research and Development record in Power semiconductor devices and power electronics. For over seventy years, Bourns has been a leading global supplier of reliable high-quality electronic components and solutions, which have been designed into virtually every type of electronic system including automotive, telecommunications, computers and industrial applications.

The Bedford, UK branch of Bourns has an established reputation as a leading manufacturer of circuit protection semiconductors. They will soon be launching a new line of power semiconductor devices, a first generation of 650V IGBTs manufactured in the UK. These devices are ideally suited for electric vehicles, strategically placing Bourns as a future supplier in this rapidly expanding market.

The demand for high efficiency energy saving electronics to compliment low carbon technologies has already seen a market shift to silicon carbide as a semiconductor material, owing to its superior physical properties. A trend that is only going to accelerate in the future. Bourns is actively performing research in this area and will look to harness this material to compliment and expand its product portfolio.

The market for SiC power devices is set to grow exponentially – driven by the electric vehicles market. The timeliness of this project could not be any better given the UK government’s announcement to ban all diesel, petrol and even hybrid vehicles by 2035 (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-51366123). This is compounded by an additional wider, net zero carbon emissions target, by 2050. 

The trend in terms of hybrid (HEV) / battery electric vehicle (BEV) powertrains is to push the DC voltage to beyond 600V, utilising high battery capacity systems. The purpose here is to reduce the demanding cabling requirements currently hampering electric vehicle performance. Beyond 600V, the only viable power semiconductor device option that can achieve the required efficiency levels is SiC. Power MOSFETs will be used within the main inverter powertrain, including a DC boost converter stage if required. Moreover, these higher voltage electric vehicle sales are set to reach 18 million by 2023, representing 16.2% of total global vehicle sales. The wider electrification becomes the more need for surge protection technologies.

JFET technology is today established in silicon carbide. The lack of a gate oxide makes it a desirable method to manufacture reliable switching devices. Although JFETs are commercially available they are not optimised for current limiting applications as utilised by the TBU. Control of threshold voltage and on-resistance of JFET devices is key to maintain low-loss in non-surge operation as well as agile control, turning off effectively when a surge appears.

The aims of this project are focussed around novel semiconductor device design, fabrication and modelling. The scope of this project can be expanded further, there is interest in eventually making full SiC Integrated Circuits to provide revolutionary benefits such as operation at extremes of temperature and environment. The specific aims of this project are to:

  • Develop novel wide bandgap silicon carbide devices for application within the TBU. 
  • This project will also challenge the candidate to create devices capable of being scaled up to industrial manufacturing. Working directly with R&D engineers within Bourns, Inc to optimise the JFET device and gain valuable experience in a commercial fabrication environment. 
  • SiC ICs; There exists the potential to develop niche SiC semiconductor process technology through CISM to improve the performance of the controller chip itself. 
  • Other promising wide bandgap materials may also be investigated such as normally on Gallium Nitride MOSFETs and even Gallium Oxide FET devices to further lower cost.
Sponsoring Company Bourns Ltd
Company Website Eligibility

Have a look at our applications hints and tips document here

We welcome applications from candidates with an Engineering or Physical Sciences degree (minimum level 2:1), or a combination of degree and equivalent experience to the same level. Normally, we would expect candidates to have met the University’s English Language requirements (e.g. IELTS 6.5 overall with 5.5+ in each component) by point of application.

An electrical engineering background is necessary to understand the circuit operation / components of the TBU. Knowledge of device physics is also preferable since design of the TBU’s semiconductor components will be required. Most importantly, the candidate must be a team player, willing to share his / her results with fellow industrial partners and academics. The successful candidate must be prepared to travel to the industrial partner (Bourns Ltd, Bedford, UK), monthly if necessary and be comfortable with presenting his / her latest results. A professional attitude is of the upmost importance since this is an industrially led project.

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is not open to ‘International’ candidates.




Fees at UK/EU rate and stipend of £20000 per annum for a period of four years.
For full details on funding eligibility, please refer to the Materials and Manufacturing Academy (M2A) Website.
Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is not open to ‘International’ candidates.

Closing Date 14 June 2020

Start Date October 2020

Apply Now

Informal enquiries about this studentship are welcome and may be directed by email to: M2A@swansea.ac.uk