INNOVATIONS – Alstom is introducing a new component technology for the traction of its trains, silicon carbide. The objectives are to reduce energy loss and improve comfort.
Alstom Transport is the first constructor to design its own power converters (train engine modules) with components that are 100% silicon carbide (SiC).
SiC is a crystal used to produce high-performance power semi-conductors. Capable of resisting very high temperatures and offering high frequency operation, they permit the introduction of new power conductors and traction systems with a considerable reduction in energy loss (- 50% compared with current semiconductors).
The loss corresponds in applied physics to the heating of equipment. The reduction allows the use of a cooling system that does not employ fans. As fans were the principal cause of noise when trains were stationary, silicon carbide improves passenger comfort by considerably reducing the noise level in stations.
Alstom devotes a large part of its Research & Development programme to improving the performance of traction drives. The quality, control and softness of electrical trains’ motion are indeed directly related to the technology used for traction system electronics.
In addition, using SiC reduces electricity consumption by up to 15 %. This is the key to reducing carbon dioxide emissions as well as to lower train operating costs.
The new modules were developed in partnership with Rohm (Japan) and Danfoss (Germany), world leaders in electronic components. Currently in the validation phase, they will be tested on trains in 2013. End 2014, they will be integrated in the production of traction systems.