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Low cost, low weight, baseless power modules for more electric aircraft developed by AMPS

21 January 2021

If aircraft can run on more efficient electrical systems, rather than the standard pneumatic and hydraulic systems in use today, then significant reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from aircraft can be achieved.

One challenge in moving towards more electrical aircraft however, is power conversion. If aircraft are to become increasingly electric, then new methods need to be developed that can transfer power efficiently and still provide high power density.

The AMPS project rose to that challenge, and successfully developed the first baseless power modules qualified to aerospace standards. This is a breakthrough in aeronautics technology, as it demonstrates that reduced size and weight can be achieved in more electric aircraft compared to traditional power distribution systems. 

At the beginning of the project, the researchers designed and manufactured a family of power modules, so-called building blocks for aircraft power distribution and conversions systems. Then, a high voltage DC matrix converter demonstrator was built using one of the module types, to show the benefits of the modular approach, including small size, lower weight, and ease of integration into a power distribution system.

By replacing a traditional distribution system with a full electrical solution using a power module configured in bidirectional mode, the weight and volume of each power conversion stage was significantly reduced, boosting the power density in the overall system. 
Following on from the AMPS project, Microchip is working to expand the family of baseless power modules to include a wider range of voltage and power options. With this expanded range of power modules as building blocks, it should be possible to cover most configurations for power distribution and conversion systems. Currently some of these additional power modules have completed the design phase and are now going through validation.

In total, the AMPS project cost €712 000, with 70% provided by the European Commission. Microchip was the only project partner.