High power bidirectional dc dc converter for aerospace applications

DCDC Power converters are already currently wildly used in Aerospace & Defense industry. This is mainly du to the existence of the 28VDC network that you’ll find in all commercial aircraft, helicopter, business jet,… This network is mainly used to power secondary systems in the aircraft such as avionics.

In this article we are going to focus on Aerospace High Power Bidirectional dc-dc converters which are a key system in the development of More Electrical Aircrafts.

The More Electrical Aircraft:

The More Electrical Aircraft is a design trend that push for the integration of more electrical systems in a traditional Aircraft design. The reason behind that is to used electrical system to improve the aircraft performance, reduce the maintenance costs and reduce weight.  There are three main More Electrical Aircraft design steps:

A More Electrical aircraft design:

Boeing 787 aircraft is the best example to illustrate this first MEA development step. With the 787 program, Boeing managed to remove the Air Power network which was historically used for the aircraft bleed and the wing deicing. Boeing achieve this technology brcktrough with the integration of More Electric Systems such as electric wing deicing, electric cabin pressure system, electrical starter/generator,…

Boeing 787 More Electrical Aircraft design

This new More Electrical Aircraft design result to a higher Power requirement on the distribution and conversion. In order to optimize the weight of the power distribution network, Boeing integrated a new 270VDC network on the 787.

The Hybrid Electric aircraft design:

The second step toward the More Electric Aircraft is the Hybrid-Electric design solution. The solution consist in the use of a traditional fuel engine in combination with a high energy storage system to power the aircraft electric propulsion.

Zunum Hybrid-Electric Aircraft

Few projects are currently in development such as Zunum, Airbus – Rolce-Royce, XTI, Bell Helicopter Air Taxi,… The current aircrafts in development using this design can have the size of a 4 seater VTOL aircraft to a 100 seater regional commercial aircraft. The benefit of this solution is to optimize fuel consummation and range.

The All Electric aircraft design:

The last and ultimate solution in the More Electric Aircraft trend is the all electric aircraft design. This mean that the energy storage system can fully provide the energy for all the aircraft flight needs (propulsion, avionics, deicing, cabin,…).

The futur of transportation by Lilium

The big limitation of this design comes currently from the energy storage system that doesn’t match yet the required Power/ weight ratio needed for large size aircraft with all the aerospace safety requirement. On the other hand, this design is totally viable with the current technology for eVTOL aircraft (<4 persons). Example include Lilium, Joby aero, Vahana (Airbus), Aurora (Boeing), Cora (Kitty Hawk | Google Boeing),…

The More Electric Aircraft by Professor Patt Wheeler from University of Nottingham, UK


More Electric Aircraft future opportunities:

Even if we still have few years to wait before witnessing a +100 passengers commercial aircraft flying all electric, we know today that the futur aircrafts would be More Electric. With this trend started few years ago, new market opportunities are emerging on the following categories:

  • Electro Mechanical actuators
  • Electric Cabin pressure system
  • Electric Deicing
  • Electric propulsion
  • Power distribution
  • Power conversion (ACDC, DCDC, DCAC)
  • Energy storage (Batteries technologies, Fuel Cell,..)

Aerospace Power conversion Opportunities & Challenges:

As a result of the More Electric Aircraft needs, more electric power is needed on tomorrow’s futur aircraft design. With this increase of the Power requirement, we assist to an increase of capacity of the energy storage system which translate high power DC network in the Aircraft. The 270VDC power network introduced on the Boeing 787 is the first move of Aircraft Manufacturers on this way. Here is an overview of the futur potential DC network needs depending on the Aircraft design:

270VDC

1st step More Electric Aircraft (B787 )

600VDC – 1000VDC

10 seats H- electric aircraft | 4 seats eVTOL

2000VDC – 5000VDC

+100 seat H- electric | -100 seats all electric

With this increase of the DC power network, we currently witness new opportunities on power conversion system (AC DC, DC DC, DC AC).

AC-DC is needed for the conversion from the generation (engine) to the DC network.

DC-AC is needed for the conversion from the DC network to the AC systems (electric propulsion, other potential system which can’t be powered by the traditional AC network,…)

DC-DC is needed for the conversion from the DC network to the DC systems (Battery, secondary systems,…)

The challenges on the power conversion equipment is to match performance required by the Aircraft manufacturers. We are currently seeing equipment in R&D phase with a ratio of 8 kW/kg and target for the near futur at 15kW/kg. We are seeing as well a significant increase of the power requirement on futur More Electric Aircraft design.


High power bidirectional dc-dc converter equipment providers for Aerospace:

Currently DC DC converters are only used on conversion problematics for secondary systems. This secondary systems with various dc input need to take their power from the 28VDC aircraft network. High power dc- dc conversion appears with the need of new all electric or new hybrid electric aircrafts to convert high DC voltage network.

Here is a list of equipment providers that are susceptible to move toward the development of High power bidirectional dc-dc converter for Aerospace application.

The traditional Aerospace Players:

Meggitt:

Meggitt has the most advanced communication when discussing about More Electric Aircraft and new custom power needs for Electric or Hybrid electric projects.

They have a dedicated page with various solution for these aircrafts including motors, actuators, power systems, Batteries,… They propose an interesting step by step analysis approach to provide a complete solution. Here is more information.

General Electric:

GE is maybe the most advanced traditional actor on the development of Aircraft power conversion, generation, distribution including high power DC DC conversion systems.

GE vision for DC system for 1st step MEA

They opened in 2012 a research center for all electric a hybrid aircraft power electronic see article. Their current power conversion product line is embedded on various major aircrafts.

Safran Group:

With the combine expertise of Safran Electronic & Power and Zodiac Electronic & Power, Safran group is a major solution provider of Aircraft power generation, conversion and distribution.They are definitely really involved on the More Electric Aircraft development and here are some information that they published.

Thales:

Thales is a major provider of Power conversion, distribution and generation equipment. They are developing their capabilities on electrical systems for the More Electrical Aircraft. Here is what they communicated 

Crane Aerospace & Electronics

Crane is a traditional and historical equipment provider for Airbus, Boeing,… Their DC DC capabilities are on small power converter devises, battery management system and DC network distribution and management which can be customized and can include conversion module. More information here.

KGS Aerospace:

KGS have a pretty large product line of power converters including dc dc converters. Their DC dc product are focusing on secondary conversion problematics with low power requirement. More information on their capabilities.

UTC:

The biggest Aerospace equipment provider is really involve in the More Electric Aircraft design. Even if they are focusing their efforts on the power distribution and generation they stil are an interesting actor to mention on this topic. See their work on the Boeing 787.

Astronics:

Astronics corporation is also a traditional actor involved in Aircraft Power conversion distribution and generation. Astronics is particularly involved in Cabin power conversion systems such as Passenger in seat power supply, galley power supply, … Astronics current product portfolio doesn’t show power system for more than 7kW applications. Here is more information on their capabilities.

New players:

Siemens:

The German company has been really active over the last few years showing major partnerships and R&D project on electric flight development. The main projects in development are Airbus EfanX, City Airbus, Siemens Magnus eFusion,…

Siemens Magnus efusion

The company is focusing its development efforts on electric propulsion system, power conversion (DC-AC and DCDC), power distribution for various power class.

Tame-Power:

Tame-Power is an automotive & industry power conversion solution provider with Aerospace customization capabilities. The existing product line of DC DC converters have power output from 3,5kW to 80kW with liquid, fan, natural cooling.

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The list above will be updated. If you are a solution provider and are not mentioned in this article, please contact us. Use the following contact form, don’t forget to mentioned the title of the article and attach a link to your company capabilities page.

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