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2 December, 2020 - 12:42 By Tony Quested

E-planes to take wing as Paragraf, Rolls-Royce and partners hit R & D runway

Cambridge technology is at the heart of a superstar UK alliance designed to accelerate the advent of E-planes and more efficient electric engines generally in aerospace and other sectors.

Paragraf, a leader in graphene-based transformative electronic sensors and devices, is helping to realise an industry first by implementing a supply chain for graphene Hall-Effect sensors used in high-temperature Power Electronics, Electric Machines and Drives (PEMD) within aerospace.

It has teamed up for the venture with global engineering innovator Rolls-Royce, TT Electronics (Aero Stanrew) and the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult (CSA Catapult).

Together they are driving an electric transport revolution with the first-ever supply chain for graphene-based Hall Effect sensors.

Named High-T Hall, the project stems from the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) ‘Driving the Electric Revolution’ challenge ; the programme is set to demonstrate how the sensors can operate reliably at high temperatures.

Hall Effect sensors play a major role in monitoring current levels and magnetic fields in PEMD applications, which is critical to monitoring drive power consumption and machine speed and position. 

The deployment of conventional silicon Hall sensors is, however, restricted to environments with temperatures below 150 °C and frequencies below 100kHz, which can constrain system level design. 

Project High-T Hall aims to demonstrate that graphene-based Hall Effect sensors will operate reliably up to 180 °C, and potentially even at temperatures of up to 230 °C allowing them to be mounted within the machine or power module enclosure thus  enabling much greater flexibility in the design of new PEMD equipment  aligned to Silicon Carbide power devices and higher performance more compact electrical machines. 

The ability to monitor current levels more accurately and reliably will enable better overall system control, which will in turn reduce size and weight and help design more efficient electric engine systems.

Ivor Guiney, co-founder of Paragraf, said: “We are extremely proud to be part of this pioneering project that will hopefully lead to better efficiency in all-electric engines and help accelerate the adoption of e-planes and, more generally, electric vehicles. 

“Our graphene Hall Effect sensors have already proven to possess unique cryogenic properties so their resistance to high temperatures will help demonstrate how uniquely versatile graphene devices are from a thermal standpoint.”

As the lead partner in High-T Hall, Paragraf will design and manufacture custom Hall Effect sensors for integration into the systems of Rolls-Royce and TT Electronics. 

The CSA Catapult will provide their packaging expertise to develop innovative packaging solutions and advanced assembly process for realising the prototypes. 

The role of Rolls-Royce and TT Electronics will be to test Paragraf’s graphene Hall Effect sensors in state-of-the-art, aerospace PEMD applications, with the former pioneering the use of this technology in their upcoming gas turbine product portfolio. 

TT Electronics will use it to develop a range of modular current sensors for use in rugged aerospace electrical systems to reduce Hall Effect sensor temperature-related errors.

Stephen Dennison, head of electronics at Rolls-Royce, said: “Rolls-Royce is committed to playing a leading role in reaching net zero carbon by 2050 and this includes championing sustainable power. 

“This project with Paragraf and the other partners will help develop a resilient supply chain that enables companies to source made-to-measure, innovative electronic components to enhance the efficiency and performance of power, electronics, machines and drives.”

The use of Paragraf’s sensors in high-temperature aerospace environments could not only be replicated in other industries such as automotive but also create new opportunities for other graphene-based electronics, beyond sensors, which can help improve efficiency and performance even further in applications such as the engines of EVs.

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