Ansys simulation software analyzes charging and discharging phenomena

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Ansys, a company specializing in structural engineering, fluid dynamics, electromagnetics and multiphysics simulations, recently launched its EMA3D Charge software in partnership with Electro Magnetic Applications, Inc. (EMA). EMA3D Charge is simulation software that improves the design and safety of applications ranging from space exploration to automotive and consumer electronics.

Safety risks from charging and discharging events need to be mitigated in most electronic applications, especially in aerospace and automotive design. In space missions, engineers must ensure that spacecraft will not be adversely affected by exposure to radiation and cosmic rays. At the same time, any type of vehicle must preserve its safety-critical functionality, even when subjected to an unexpected charging or discharging event.

Electrostatic Discharge (ESD), which can cause abnormalities or even system failure, is caused by electric fields that exceed the resistance of the materials and then force high currents through the materials and potentially system components. In space, these high electric fields come from the charge due to the plasma environment. At the terrestrial level, this can occur from high voltage differentials or static charge buildup. Mitigating the deleterious effects of ESD is essential in any electronics design, making tools that support ESD analysis essential when designing and building vehicles for these harsh environments.

Ansys EMA3D load

Ansys’ new software tool addresses engineers’ need to assess charging and discharging events that can lead to catastrophic product failures. Simulation software enables risk analysis early in the design cycle, improving forecast accuracy and reducing time-to-market and cost.

“We developed EMA3D Charge because we saw that there was a gap in the industry for this type of software solution. Even though this was specifically targeted at the spacecraft industry, it turns out that a lot of the physics and solutions we have for loading and unloading also apply to much wider industries than what we originally thought,” Kevin-Druis Merenda said. , scientist at the EMA.

Ansys is still exploring the depth of possible areas where the tool can be applied, according to Merenda. This includes not only space, aerospace and defense applications, but also automotive, consumer electronics and more generally anything that poses a potential risk.

The tool itself is intended to analyze and assess the risk of electrostatic discharge by examining how materials charge in plasma environments or in high voltage environments. Risk assessment is very important because it helps predict what happens if ESD events actually occur on the surface of the spacecraft, inside the dielectrics, or even when consumers create an electrical charge by walking on a carpet and then touching their computer.

From a performance perspective, EMA3D Charge is very efficient as it takes advantage of multi-core architectures to reduce simulation time. Simulations that typically take a week to run on a single-core hardware platform can now be fully executed in a day or two.

Two typical problems that space engineers have to solve are related to the dielectric exposed in space or the surface charge on satellites (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Surface recharge event on satellite

EMA3D Load provides comprehensive and accurate analysis by leveraging four physical (time domain) solvers that help designers in assessing and managing the risks associated with loading and unloading materials. Specifically, the tool provides the following main features:

  • Predicts catastrophic satellite failure due to discharge events, which must be addressed during the project design phase as in-orbit testing is nearly impossible
  • Predicts charge buildup on satellites and space platforms, a difficult undertaking that requires a deep understanding of plasma and material physics
  • Due to the difficulty in predicting the adverse effects of electromagnetic interference (EMI) and material degradation, it performs precise load analysis to detect when, where and how an electric arc may form

The software also handles the effects of electrostatic discharges in air and solid dielectrics, which has traditionally required a plethora of complicated simulation tools with steep learning curves. The charge and discharge phenomena that can be analyzed with EMA3D Charge are as follows:

  • Air failure: In high voltage systems, it takes advantage of a finite element time difference method and a nonlinear air chemistry module to model the arc at different air densities and humidity
  • Surface loading: In low and high energy plasma environments, as well as by triboelectrification, it is possible to use highly optimized charge balance equation solvers
  • Internal loading of solid materials: From high-energy particle streams, it exploits the coupling of a 3D particle transport source and a full-wave electromagnetic finite element method (FEM)
  • Coupled load simulations: It takes advantage of charge balance equation solvers, FEM and the 3D Particle Transport Tool to consistently solve 3D electric fields generated from a surface charge problem
  • Dielectric breakdown in solid dielectric materials: It is simulated once the local fields exceed the dielectric strength of a given material, using the coupling of the FEM with the 3D particle source and a stochastic tree model.

The latest version of the tool (2022 R1) is intended to address more technologies including printed circuit boards, 3D IC packages, EMI/EMC, thermal, wiring and electromechanical design with significant advancements in 5G, autonomous vehicles and electrification simulation. Figure 2 shows an example of the new Dielectric Breakdown Capability, which assesses designs and assesses the risk of dielectric breakdown for spacecraft, solar panels, high voltage solid insulators, cables, and connector designs.

simulation software
Figure 2: Dielectric breakdown capacity applied to the solar panel (Source: Ansys)

“Today we have many advances in solar panel materials and design. Being able to use more powerful solar panels and innovative materials, and quickly and efficiently simulate those for the GEO environment and for other missions, is a major task that we have accomplished,” said Gregory Wilson, senior scientist at EMA.

Besides performing ESD testing in space, one of the most important things is radiation hardening. Many electronic components need to be radiation hardened to ensure they can survive any bit flips.

“These are things that we can tackle with our tools, especially shielding effects and that kind of reliability. We are also preparing to be able to measure specific material properties in our lab, which will be used as input data into the tool,” Wilson said.

This is the reason why Ansys has set up a test laboratory which allows them to run tests identical to the simulations set up to validate them. Simulation data can also be coupled with other tools in the Ansys environment, such as EMA3D Cable.

“The EMA3D cable allows us to couple transients occurring on the cables to see how downstream circuits will be affected. To do this, we export an S-parameter file from the simulation that allows us to directly apply these effects to a spice model, which can then be used for circuit design and analysis,” Wilson said.

As Wilson explained, every time a customer comes to test in their lab, they provide a candidate simulation of that test to the customer at no additional cost. This way they can show the complementary nature of testing and simulation, as well as show the validation of the tool which will then allow them to perform more simulations with changes in design iterations they may have, without the need to test each design. cash.