Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Source

SPIE Proceedings of the International Society for Optical Engineering


The ever-increasing performance and economy of operation requirements placed on commercial and military transport aircraft are resulting in very complex systems. As a result, the use of fiber optic component technology has lead to high data throughput, immunity to EMI, reduced certification and maintenance costs and reduced weight features. In particular, in avionic systems, data integrity and high data rates are necessary for stable flight control. Fly-by-Light systems that use optical signals to actuate the flight control surfaces of an aircraft have been suggested as a solution to the EMI problem in avionic systems. Current fly-by-light systems are limited by the lack of optically activated high-power switching devices. The challenge has been the development of an optoelectronic switching technology that can withstand the high power and harsh environmental conditions common in a flight surface actuation system. Wide bandgap semiconductors such as Silicon Carbide offer the potential to overcome both the temperature and voltage blocking limitations that inhibit the use of Silicon. Unfortunately, SiC is not optically active at the near IR wavelengths where communications grade light sources are readily available. Thus, we have proposed a hybrid device that combines a silicon based photoreceiver model with a SiC power transistor. When illuminated with the 5mW optical control signal the silicon chip produces a 15mA drive current for a SiC Darlington pair. The SiC Darlington pair then produces a 150 A current that is suitable for driving an electric motor with sufficient horsepower to actuate the control surfaces on an aircraft. Further, when the optical signal is turned off, the SiC is capable of holding off a 270 V potential to insure that the motor drive current is completely off. We present in this paper the design and initial tests from a prototype device that has recently been fabricated.

Inclusive pages




Document Version

Published Version


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Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE)

Place of Publication

San Jose, CA



Peer Reviewed