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Manufacturers Look to Amp Up Performance of Automotive Components

Nov. 13, 2018
From higher voltage and temperatures to higher data rates, component manufacturers are striving to meet the stringent new requirements of hybrid and autonomous vehicles.

When KEMET’s Chief Scientist Philip Lessner looks at automotive trend market reports, like the one predicting that in 12 years one third to one quarter of all cars sold will be electric or hybrid, he must be satisfied with his company’s current product development roadmap.

“As demands increase beyond the scope of the 12-V supply, auto companies are moving to 48-V configurations, which means passive components such as capacitors will need to have higher voltage capabilities—up to 75 or 80 V,” said Lessner, speaking Monday at the electronica Automotive Conference.

One recent development is KEMET’s polymer-tantalum capacitor product line. Designed for harsh environments, Lessner said that the devices operate up to 80 V, are suitable for ADAS and autonomous driving computer applications, and are fully AEC-Q100-qualified with max operating temperatures up to 150°C. A 175°C version is under development.

To go from consumer to automotive applications, Lessner pointed out that the company did not merely relabel an existing product, but made extensive changes in the material. This included changes in the lead frame and connection chemistry to make it more corrosion-resistant and temperature- and humidity-tolerant.

The solid-state polymer cathode system delivers low equivalent series resistance (ESR) while the tantalum anode achieves reliability levels that exceed the lifetime use of a vehicle. Additional features include stable capacitance across voltage and temperature, no loss of capacitance due to aging or dry out, high humidity handling, excellent shock and vibration performance, low profile design, and small footprint.

Currently, 16% of KEMET’s capacitor business is within automotive, and with new product advances, clearly looks to increase that revenue.

Can Cabling Help Achieve Higher Data Rates?

In partnership with the Fraunhofer InstituteTE Connectivity is studying how much cabling can potentially contribute to achieving the higher data rates that will be required by vehicles of the future.

Also speaking at the Automotive Conference, Bert Bergner, an EE at TE Connectivity with more than ten patents and a focus on advanced development for infotainment, described the challenges for today’s systems.

“With advances in sensor fusion and multiple cameras, radar, ultrasonic, sensors, etc., all are providing high amounts of data that need to talk to computational units,” he stressed. “All need higher data rates, and we need to consider the specific requirements and limitations of cabling and understand what parameters we need to change and improve in order to up the data rate.”

He went on to describe that automotive cabling can be as simple as a camera that streams its data to the electronic control unit (ECU) to something much more complex with multiple connector types and cable lengths. “There are all kinds of interdependencies, electrical loss that depends on temperature, aging, and all the material compounds, and we need to understand what it means for level 4 and 5 systems and the electrical requirements of the chips and make sure we meet them.”

But he also pointed out that getting to higher data rates involves choices in what part of the system to focus on: “Do we put the effort into the silicon chip with such things as error corrections and echo cancellation—which makes the chip more expansive and power consuming and bigger—or can we do it in the cabling?”

To answer those questions and determine what gains could potentially be made from the cabling itself, TE Connectivity partnered with the Fraunhofer Institute to develop simulations of the cabling channel. The simulations take into account channel transmission parameters such as insertion loss, environmental degradation, and electromagnetic immunity.

In a simulation consisting of HSB connectors with three inline connectors, the research team varied parameters such as frequency and absorption loss to determine to what degree data rates could be increased.

The findings were encouraging: By reducing EMI and insertion/return loss, researchers found that data rates of >10 Gb/s are theoretically achievable on automotive channels. Duplex operation was also found to substantially reduce data rates.

Bergner said that these findings will factor into TE Connectivity’s product development efforts, noting that the company will focus on high-speed, high-performing systems for automotive applications.


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