In the past, passive component needs were mainly driven by industrial applications. However, today EV/HEV applications increasingly drive technology trends in these components. The EV/HEV industry will drive a remarkable expansion of the capacitor, inductor, and transformer markets over the next five years, with a CAGR2021-2027 exceeding 18%.
As analyzed in the Passive components for power converters 2022 report from Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, the passive components market is over 15% of the size of the converter market, reaching US $7.4 billion in 2021. The overall passive components market for power converters will reach US $11.5 billion by 2027. The continuous growth of the market for passive components will drive supply chain consolidation. The specific requirements of passive components for automotive applications, such as vibration tolerance, small form factor, high-temperature tolerance, high reliability, and better thermal management, offer the opportunity for passive component manufacturers to improve their market position by providing solutions adapted to continuously evolving customer needs.
Today, Shalu Agarwal, Senior Technology & Market Analyst, Power Electronics & Battery from Yole Intelligence interviews Dr. Philip Lessner, Senior Vice President, KEMET.
KEMET is a part of the Yageo group of companies, one of the top passive components’ suppliers. This discussion is a nice opportunity to learn more about their products and the future trends for power electronics.
Shalu Agarwal (SA): Please briefly introduce yourself and KEMET’s passive components activities to Industry Insights’ readers:
Dr. Philip Lessner (PL): KEMET is part of the Yageo group of companies. The Yageo group’s portfolio of passive components includes Tantalum, Film, Aluminum Electrolytic, Ceramic, and Super capacitors, as well as resistors, magnetic, and circuit protection components. We are the number one supplier of Tantalum capacitors and resistors and number three in ceramic (MLCC) capacitors. Our products range in size from sub-millimeter resistors and capacitors used in mobile devices to large capacitors and inductors used in automotive and green energy applications.
I’ve been with KEMET for 26 years. I was hired to start the Tantalum-Conductive Polymer product line, which has now grown to a several hundred-million-dollar business. Later I led R&D for the Tantalum capacitor unit and then for the entire KEMET group.
SA: Please tell us about your newest innovations and products related to passive components for power electronics and your plans for the coming months.
PL: We are constantly innovating in the component space. For example, in our Aluminum Electrolytic product line, we have several innovations. One is a rectangular form factor capacitor. Traditionally Aluminum Electrolytic capacitors have only been available in a round form factor. Moving to a rectangular form factor has several advantages, including better packing density of multiple capacitors and better heat transfer between packages. This leads to higher effective capacitance density and higher ripple current capability. The other major innovation is the replacement of liquid electrolyte by conductive polymer or hybrid conductive polymer-liquid. While this technology isn’t new, we’ve been able to modify the process to apply it to much larger capacitors. This means we can make large axial electrolytics and rectangular capacitors with ultra-low ESR, long lifetime, and high ripple current capability.
One of the historical disadvantages of power film capacitors is the limited temperature range. Above a hot spot temperature of ~105°C, the lifetime of polypropylene (PP) film capacitors declines significantly. We’ve recently introduced film capacitors based on a cyclic olefin copolymer (COC)-PP blend capable of a long life at temperatures up to 135°C—a significant extension in temperature capability. We’ve introduced DC-Link and Pulse capacitors based on this dielectric and have plans to extend this performance to other types of film capacitors.
SA: What is your business strategy for differentiating added value to face intense competition from other players?
PL: We intend to be the technology leader in the component technologies we manufacture. We also introduced a line of component modules that combine components into custom configurations. We work closely with customers to develop value-added solutions for their applications. Since the Yageo group manufactures several types of passive components, we intend to extend this to multiple component types in the future.
SA: What are the main applications that KEMET will be targeting in the coming years to ensure the success of its passive components?
PL: KEMET and the Yageo group have always served all segments of the electronics industry. Clearly, however, some segments are growing faster than others. Automotive is a big growth segment for us. The electronic content of vehicles continues to increase due to the increased deployment of advanced driver assist systems and the move from internal combustion engines to battery electric vehicles. A large part of our development effort and an increasing part of our total manufacturing capacity goes into servicing these applications.
SA: Yole Intelligence has seen various trends toward higher power systems in applications such as DC Charging or Wind Turbines. Is KEMET developing any products for higher power systems?
PL: We have a line of film power can products aimed at the green energy segment. Customers expect these products to have very long lifetimes and desire higher maximum operational temperatures. We have products on our roadmap that address these requirements.
SA: According to you, what impact do you see from the EV market specifically on the different activities of KEMET? Which is the direct impact on Kemet’s products of the increase in demand for 800V systems?
PL: Hybrid and electric vehicles have had a direct impact on our roadmap. One is for 48V systems for hybrid vehicles. We’ve developed several products in Tantalum, Ceramic, and Aluminum Electrolytic capacitors to address this market (75-80V products).
Improved humidity resistance is another focus area for us. Automotive products are exposed to harsh environments and must continue to perform reliably. We’ve improved the humidity resistance of many of our components with specific automotive grades for Tantalum, Film, Aluminum Electrolytic, and Supercapacitors being introduced.
The developments for 800V have mainly been in the film capacitor area for the traction inverters. We have been working closely with film suppliers on improving the capability of thicker PP films to use them at higher voltage stresses and still achieve long lifetimes.
SA: Can you share with us Kemet’s EV solutions roadmap for the next five years? How do you see production evolving in power electronics components?
PL: All our components need to continue to increase in lifetime capability due to the expected long life of electric vehicles (which should last much longer than internal combustion vehicles due to fewer mechanical parts). Another trend is that frequency, temperature, and voltage will increase due to the move from silicon-based power semiconductors to silicon carbide (and gallium nitride). This means that technologies like MLCC – which weren’t really considered for power applications in the past – may see increasing use because capacitance requirements will decrease at higher frequencies (and MLCC is very suited for higher temperatures).
SA: Do you want to say a few final words to our readers?
PL: KEMET was acquired by the Yageo group in 2020. Being part of a company that manufactures many different types of passive components is a great opportunity to provide the full range of solutions to our customers.
Dr. Philip Lessner is Senior Vice President at KEMET.
He has been employed in the electronic component industry for over 35 years and 26 years at KEMET. He started at KEMET as an engineer in the Tantalum capacitor group developing the Tantalum-Conductive Polymer product line. He was promoted to Director of Tantalum Technology in 2002, Vice President and Tantalum Technology in 2004 and became KEMET CTO in 2006.
Philip Lessner obtained his BE in Chemical Engineering from Cooper Union and a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.
Shalu Agarwal, PhD. is Power Electronics and Materials Senior Analyst at Yole Intelligence, part of Yole Group, within the Power & Wireless division. Based on Seoul, Shalu is engaged in the development of technology & market reports as well as the production of custom consulting studies.
Shalu has more than 10 years’ experience in Electronic Material Chemistry. Before joining Yole, she worked as a project manager and research professor in the field of electronic materials, batteries and inorganic chemistry.
Shalu Agarwal received her master’s and Ph.D. degree in Chemistry from the Indian institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee (India).