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John O | May 2017

Researchers develop capacitors that work even at extreme temperatures


Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectric Circuits and Systems IMS have created a capacitor that can withstand temperatures as high as 300°C, more than double the standard of 125°C, using an innovative mix of materials and a new 3-D trick to increase surface area, according to a report from the institute.

 


The capacitor withstands temperatures of up to 300 degrees Celsius.
(Fraunhofer IMS)

 

The report explained, “Capacitors store charge carriers and are among the most frequently used passive structural elements in electronics. The design of a capacitor is simple: it has two conducting plates, which function as the plus and minus electrodes, separated by an insulating layer called the dielectric.”

 

The trick that the Fraunhofer team employed was etching tiny holes into the surface of the conduct9ing metal layers, which increased the surface area and its heat transfer capacity. It also allowed for the use of a thicker dielectric layer, which can withstand higher temperatures and “decrease uncontrolled leakage current in the capacitor.”

 

The article added, “The experts are striking new paths in the production of the insulating dielectric, too, by using tantalum pentoxide, a compound of tantalum (a metal) and oxygen and aluminum oxide. This mix of materials is better at storing charge carriers than the silicon oxide usually used, so it increases the capacitor’s capacitance. For this reason, these particularly high-performing materials are also sometimes called high-k dielectrics in electric engineering.”

 

The researchers also incorporated highly conductive silicon with ruthenium, which is heat resistant and “robust.”

 

The capacitors that Fraunhofer has created are not only resistant to high heat but are also manufactured using the MOS (metal-oxide-semiconductor) process, which creates layers that are only a single atom thick (also known as atomic layer deposition). This allows greater control over the precise thickness of layers and makes the design more customizable to the specific needs of a system.

 

The article concluded, “This expertise in high-temperature electronics can be applied to many other passive or active structural elements, such as resistors, diodes and transistors. Besides that, the technology established at Fraunhofer IMS is also suited for completely integrated circuits. Consequently, the capacitor can be incorporated not only into drill bits but also into engine injection systems or aircraft turbines – in other words, anywhere that requires extremely heat-resistant and robust components.”

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