Polymers and polymer-based composites are indispensable materials for electronics and electrical engineering. Examples include printed circuit boards, components of power electronics in vehicles, high-voltage generators and transformers. Both, the increasing integration density in electronics and the need for higher efficiency and improved power-to-weight ratio of generators and transformers, result in demanding operating conditions and higher temperature levels. This requires improved or novel materials in order to achieve increased thermo-mechanical stability, thermal conductivity and sufficient dielectric strength in various voltage ranges and, hence, to guarantee quality and reliability at the highest level.

The K-Project 'Polymer Composites for Thermally Demanding Applications (PolyTherm)' (i) combines the expertise of materials scientists, polymer chemists and electrical engineers, (ii) to target applied research in the field of functional polymers and multi-material structures for electronics and electrical engineering, (iii) yields novel materials, modeling and simulation techniques, as well as alternative manufacturing technologies, and (iv) represents a well-defined research cluster within the structures of the PCCL.

PolyTherm's six partner companies can be assigned to the electronics / e-mobility sector (AT&S AG, Continental Automotive GmbH, ams AG, and AVL List GmbH) and high-voltage engineering (Siemens AG Österreich, Andritz Hydro GmbH). Scientific partners of 5 universities (Montanuniversitaet Leoben (AT), Graz University of Technology (AT), University of Southampton (UK), Politecnico di Torino (IT), and Technical University of Dortmund (DE)) join the consortium with complementary competencies in the fields of polymer chemistry and polymer technology, dielectric materials, power electronics and electrical engineering. PCCL as initiator and coordinator of PolyTherm contributes significantly to the research program in addition to the overall coordination with their expertise in the field of plastics technology and polymer science.

Central scientific goals of PolyTherm include among others the electrically-thermally coupled simulation of temperature distribution in power electronics systems, homogenized global simulation models for thermo-mechanical stress analysis in multi-material composites, lifetime and reliability estimation of electronic components (based on simulation methods), thermally induced cationic polymerization reactions with volume expansion, thermo-mechanical properties of anisotropically expanded resins, the fabrication and functionalization of nanoscaled fillers with high thermal conductivity, and the correlation between the structure and dielectric properties of novel materials.

Examples of technology developments in the K-Project PolyTherm are power electronics components embedded in circuit boards (up to 5 kW) for electric drive technology (e-mobility), high-precision pressure sensors, components with geometric alignment by thermally induced volume expansion for high voltage generators and transformers, and new manufacturing processes for thermoplastic based insulation components for high voltage applications.

The scientific work in the K-Project PolyTherm is dedicatedly focussing the following areas:

  • Reliability and lifetime assessment of new power package concepts through improved damage and failure simulation
  • Virtual system evaluation of a high performance pressure sensor interacting with the PC
  • Expanding polymers: Assemblies with tailored geometrical orientation
  • Cationic curing of epoxy thermosets with tailored properties based on simulation methods