EPCI Interview with KEMET CTO Philip Lessner on Passive Component Trends

Dr. Phil Lessner, KEMET Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Scientist. (PRNewsFoto/KEMET Corporation)

source: EPCI




Dr. Philip Lessner, KEMET Senior Vice President, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Scientist at KEMET answers what is hot and upcoming in the passive components industry as the next topic for the EPCI interview of the month with Tomas Zednicek, EPCI president.

We had some good short overview talks recently with Medtronic about passive components in medical applications, followed by some inputs from university study on supercapacitor modelling and simulation, so it may be the right time to get some visions also from the position of a leading passive component manufacturer.

> Q1 EPCI: Hello Philip, you are the long term experienced specialist in the field of passive components and CTO of KEMET, can you please briefly introduce your position, experties and share some of your opinions about the today’s passive component technology and trends ?


My experience in the components industry goes back about 25 years. Before KEMET, I worked on components and materials for EMI shielding. I came to KEMET 20 years ago initially to develop Polymer Tantalum capacitors. This was introduced as the KO-CAP product line in 1999. I became Director of Tantalum Technology in 2002, Vice President of Tantalum Technology in 2004. and assumed my current position in 2006.

Overall technical trends for passive components are miniaturization, reduction of parasitic losses, and the ability to operate in harsher environments. Miniaturization used to mean footprint reduction, but now there is also a big push for height reduction as well. This is driven by the increasingly thin form factors of electronic devices. Embedded components are finally starting to become a real possibility.

Reduction of ESR and ESL have been trends for years and they still continue. Recently we’ve seen a lot of interest in the reduction of piezoelectric noise for ceramic capacitors. Patent activity is extremely high in this area.

The ability to operate at higher temperatures and humidities are being driven by automotive, telecom, and down hole drilling. Also, we are starting to see a move to alternative semiconductors such as GaN and SiC which are capable of operating at higher temperature and frequencies.

> Q2 EPCI: What do you see currently as the key applications,products,services that have been driving the passive component industry – on current market and let’s say within the next 5 years ?


Mobile computing and the cloud is certainly one area. At the end user device level this has led to miniaturization as the market has shifted from notebook computers to phones and tablets. The proliferation of connectivity has caused an increase in high powered servers to store and analyze all the data from these mobile devices. The number of sensors in a mobile device today is just amazing. This will accelerate as wearable electronics becomes more fully deployed.

In automotive, the use of higher temperatures components and the move to hybrid and electric vehicles has been a trend. 125C used to be a standard, but now 150 and 175C are increasingly being asked for. For hybrids and electrics, there is a lot of activity in large custom film capacitors for DC-Links in inverters. We’ve also seen requests for axial aluminum electrolytic for mild hybrid systems.

I see a definite move in industrial towards the rating of components for use in harsh environments. So telecom, smart meters, solar energy applications are all asking for components that can withstand some level of 85C/85% RH exposure. And, the down hole industry continues to drill deeper so temperature requirements have moved from 200C now to 230C and greater for some applications.

> Q3 EPCI: What are the biggest challenges/issues for the current passive component manufactures itself and also from the position of their co-operation within the supply chain (customers, suppliers, distributors ..)


We seek to have a socially and environmentally responsible supply chain. So several manufacturers, including KEMET, have set up tantalum supply chains that ensure we only procure ore from certified conflict free mines. KEMET has taken that a step further by setting up a closed loop tantalum supply chain where we have close partners or in house manufacturing all the way from the mine through tantalum powder production. This was done in order to supply a consistent and stable source of Tantalum for our capacitors in a socially responsible manner.

There are also many more requirements on types of materials that can be used today. So, tin, tungsten, and gold also have to be certified as conflict free. In addition, we have RoHS and REACH that restrict materials that can be used. So we have to work very closely with suppliers to understand all the materials that they use.

The web and electronic communication is changing the way we interact with customers. Increasingly customers are finding information through the web or social media. We are continually upgrading our website to have technical materials, catalog search, and simulation tools available and discoverable on line. KEMET has also launched an app for iOS and Android that contains data sheets and application notes on the device and links to web tools.

EPCI: I can only confirm that your openness for this interview shared on-line and by social media is the good practical demonstation of your positive relation to the electronic communication channels… but let me ask you the last question of this brief interview:

> Q4, EPCI: You mentioned a raising importance of special high end applications such as automotive, medical … and space. I noticed that you are presenting two papers related to tantalum capacitors for space applications at the upcoming ESA Space Passive Component Days. One of the obvious trend in space and high-end applications is their move to cheaper commercial grade components. Can you please share with us if you see this pressure more as a”dangerous move” that require “careful attention”, or as a new challenge for new technologies, …. and what is a KEMET response to this trend.


I see a few trends in military and aerospace components. One is the move to new component materials technologies. So BME components are starting to be used in MLCC and Polymer components are starting to be used in Tantalum. This is being driven by performance reasons (higher cap, lower ESR). Initially this was done through COTS, but now formal government specifications are becoming available.

The use of commercial components are partially driven by performance and partially by price. COTS components can have higher CV, lower ESR, etc. than the more conservative military specification components. So there is some risk for the less conservative design, but this can be mitigated by the additional testing and screening that can be specified with a COTS component. Just specifying commercial could be dangerous because you have the more aggressive design without the special screening and testing.


EPCI: Thank you Philip, we appreciate your time and sharing your opinions with us.


KEMET is presenting two papers “Effects of ambient atmosphere on reliability of solid tantalum capacitors” and “Tantalum SMD capacitors with manganese dioxide and conductive polymer counter electrode for space applications” at the upcoming ESA Space Passive Component Days at ESTEC The Netherland on October 12-14, 2016 – link here in the event calendar or the ESA SPCD website here.


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