What is NSF-CAVE?

The National Science Foundation Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics (CAVE3) at Auburn University is a national center of excellence in harsh environment electronics. The center is an NSF Industry and University Cooperative Research program (I/URC). In 1999 a small seed grant from the National Science Foundation was used to help found the research center. Since its inception CAVE3 has formed a number of long term partnerships among industry, government, and academic agencies. The vast majority of all funding for the center currently derives from industrial partners. Since research topics are driven by an Industrial Advisory Board (IAB) comprised of member companies, research results are directly applicable to the needs of the member companies.

As electronic components become more prevalent in automotive applications, the reliability of the components themselves becomes an issue requiring costly recalls. Furthermore when components are integrated into under hood applications, the components see temperature ranges between -30° C and 175° C yet are still expected to last for 10yrs/250,000 km (-22F to 350F and 150,000 miles). The Center for Advanced Vehicle Electronics was founded to help automotive suppliers, and anyone with harsh environment electronics applications meet their reliability requirements. From the very beginning of the centers existence it was acknowledged that thermal stresses are not the only hazard to electronics and in 2009 the research centers name was updated to the Center for Advanced Vehicle and Extreme Environment Electronics. Currently a vehicle is interpreted as anything that carries electrical sub-systems. The updated name better communicates that the work at the center addresses the reliability challenges from harsh environments including thermal, drop, shock, vibration and manufacturing concerns such as the lead free solder transition, tin whiskers, printed circuit board (PCB) design, and heat dissipation design.

Research areas also cover challenges in:

Bi-annual research reviews are hosted to communicate result to member companies. Mature research results are also implemented into a tool set called E-tools that allows member companies to access extensive historical reliability and finite element based simulation tools designed by researches at CAVE3. The center offers a broad range of independent laboratory testing services and consulting to quantify the reliability of production prototypes and resolve manufacturing issues. All testing is in accordance with EDEC, ASTM, IPC, Military, UL, commercial and customer specifications.