China’s railgun tech uses high power semiconductor technology from an acquired UK company

The 2008 purchase of Dynex Semiconductor by Chinese railway firm Zhouzhou CRRC Times Electric helped the development of the Chinese navy’s new railguns.

Dynex is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of high-powered semiconductors, including insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs), which play an important role in energy conversion systems. Zhouzhou CRRC Times Electric bought Dynex for 8 million pounds.

China used the technology to manufacture its own IGBT chips for the first time. Times Electric built a £167 million manufacturing plant in Zhuzhou, Hunan province, modeled on the factory in Lincoln, according to a report in the China Daily. This produces £230m worth of semiconductors a year — and reports have emerged of high-powered IGBT devices being supplied to China’s military.

In November, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong cited a military source who said China was “confident” of building electromagnetic catapults for its new aircraft carrier because of its ability to manufacture IGBT chips “developed by China’s first semiconductor manufacturer . . . Times Electric, and British subsidiary Dynex Semiconductor.

The energy required by the EM railgun projectile is to be provided by the warship’s electrical power system, meaning that it must be designed for arduous pulse power conditions. Due to the inherent impedance of the power system and the power limits of current prime movers, it is impractical and unrealistic to draw a 160 MJ, 10 ms pulse of energy demanded by EM railguns directly from the ship’s generators. Instead, an intermediate charging circuit can be employed to draw and store energy provided by the GTA in an energy storage device (ESD) from the ship’s power system, prior to it being supplied to the EM railgun via a pulse-forming network.

The rate of fire can be increased to the required 10 rounds per min by increasing the size of the ESD from 160 MJ to 320 MJ, so as to limit the GTA load transients and maintain the QPS within STANAG 1008 limits.