Marking an important step in the verifiability of the service life of power electronics used in PV power plants, GE has teamed up with Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration (IZM) to develop a measurement system for the forecasting of the lifetime of electronic components. The first prototype of this measurement system will be presented in Berlin in September 2012 as the CoMoLeFo project (Condition Monitoring für Leistungselektronik in der Fotovoltaik or Condition Monitoring for Power Electronics in Photovoltaics).

Along with Fraunhofer IZM and GE, the other parties involved in the joint initiative, which is sponsored by TSB Berlin with RDF funds, include imc Meßsysteme GmbH and Elbau Elektronik Bauelemente GmbH.

The joint CoMoLeFo project aims to identify and detect the relevant aging mechanisms of insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBT), which form the main component of modern inverters. One process indirectly determines the chip temperature by capturing data on the electrical parameters of the IGBT during operation, while the other process monitors the parameter shift due to aging. The gathered data is processed by a software-based remote diagnostic system, leading to a prediction of the remaining lifetime of the IGBTs.

This forecasting ability is significant to the industry in that it will improve reliability, reduce maintenance costs and increase operating times for a PV power plant.
"The results we have seen so far during the project enhance our knowledge of failure mechanisms and are particularly valuable both when it comes to refining simulation models and to designing new power electronics systems," notes Dr. Ing. Andreas Middendorf, head of the CoMoLeFo project at Fraunhofer IZM.