Power

Power electronics is a key element in the world of electronic design and engineering and electronic engineers need to have a thorough understanding of this area if they’re going to create successful products.

In this section, New Electronics keeps designers up to date with the latest developments in the power electronics market – everything from DC/DC converters to IGBTs to battery technology. In fact, New Electronics covers any power product that can go on a PCB.

ICs to bring longer battery life to portable devices

As users demand more functionality and longer runtime from their devices, the need to understand what is consuming a battery’s charge becomes more important. Hardware developers can use this information to track energy used in different conditions, while software developers can adjust their coding decisions to improve efficiency. Meanwhile, operating systems can monitor how processes use power and consumers can see how their battery is used and realise possible actions to take for longer runtime. The knowledge gained from measuring accurately how a product uses the battery leads to an understanding of the design trade-offs – turning knowledge into power.

Potential breakthroughs in battery technology

The pressure on those developing new battery chemistries is increasing as consumers demand the ability to use their electronic devices for longer between charges. And it seems that researchers are responding with a range of potential solutions, not only based on lithium, but also exploring other elements. Beyond that, solid state electrolytes are beginning to show promise.

Extending operating life through better power system architectures

Consumer demand for wearable technology is set to explode. Analyst firm Gartner estimates that, by the end of 2017, annual shipments of wearable devices will have exceeded 320million units, with revenues of $35billion. It is likely that smart watches and fitness monitoring systems, such as sports watches and wrist bands, will represent at least 60% of this total.

Snapdragon processors for embedded systems

Since its establishment in 1985, Qualcomm has been involved in the mobile communications market, although its Qualcomm Technologies arm has made forays into other areas, such as MEMs based displays and wireless vehicle charging.

Computational graphs to cut power consumption

For Professor Veljko Milutinovic of the University of Belgrade, computing stands on the edge of major change and it is one that was predicted by physicist Richard Feynman because of the way computing uses energy. In his lecture notes on computation written in the early 1980s – but not published until eight years after his death in 1988 – Feynman argued that computing itself at its limit could incur practically no energy and that all the power would instead go into computation.

Helping rail power supplies to comply

Around the world brand new infrastructure projects are being rolled out – from the Naples to Bari high speed railway project in Italy and the proposed TEX rail project in Texas to London’s Crossrail/Elizabeth Line. As a result, demand for new rolling stock – whether for rail, suburban rail, metro or tram projects – is growing, with huge quantities of trains set to be built over the next few years.

High performance GUIs to improve wearable devices

High-end wearable devices such as smart watches are characterised by a rich functionality, a sophisticated graphical user interface (GUI) with touch operation and communication interfaces to a smartphone, tablet or PC – but also by extremely short battery life times.

Keeping operating areas MOSFET safe

Mission critical servers and communications equipment must continue to operate, even as circuit boards and cards are plugged-in or pulled-out for maintenance and capacity adjustment.

Automotive market to benefit from Industry 4.0

?The automotive segment is often considered to be associated solely with cars and related applications. It is, however, much bigger than that; encompassing a broad range of applications such as buses, trucks, industrial vehicles, mobile machinery, forklifts, automated cleaning machines and emergency vehicles.

Silicon carbide technology reaches tipping point

While silicon currently remains the material of choice of power devices, there is little headroom available to improve figures of merit such as on resistance and gate charge. However, there appears to be more room for manoeuvre with alternative materials and two such materials which are focusing the attention of device developers are silicon carbide (SiC) and gallium nitride (GaN).

How small diameter electrolytic capacitors in power supplies can impact reliability and cost

Recently a member of TDK-Lambda’s technical marketing team experienced first-hand just how much influence small diameter electrolytic capacitors can have on long-term power supply reliability. Unfortunately he picked February to have his central heating system upgraded and Britain’s unpredictable weather system delivered snow. The seven year old boiler system in the loft had been turned off for two days while the radiators were replaced. When the installation was complete, the boiler was switched on, but failed to start

Energy regulations in power adaptors

The external power supply has become a staple part of system design for the electronics engineer. It provides a convenient means by which to add an AC front-end to a product which already meets international safety approvals. It also provides a faster time to market, with the option to use a connector which suits the application and reduces the risk of a generic power supply being plugged in and causing damage. By supplying a lower DC voltage to the equipment, it becomes easier to design a compact product that complies with all the necessary safety standards – a key consideration in applications in the consumer, industrial and medical markets

Composite amplifiers can improve performance

It is a familiar situation. An application needs an amplifier with excellent output drive capability, say several hundred milliamps, to drive a large capacitive load. The supplier’s engineering team can fairly quickly recommend a suitable part. But then the designers throw in additional requirements, such as low noise and high DC precision. This time, no single device is available to meet that specification. While you might think that placing a precision amplifier and high-output-current amplifier in series would give designers the best of both worlds, sadly, this turns out to be not the case.

A move to brushless DC motors

Replacing mechanically driven motors with electrically commutated solutions doesn’t come without specific design considerations. In the automotive sector, the use of electric motors in applications such as power steering, cooling and fluid pumping, offers control, reliability and efficiency advantages over mechanical counterparts and it seems the automotive industry has yet to finish this transition. Market analysts report that more manufacturers are now choosing brushless DC motors (BLDCs) over brushed (internally commutated) electric motors, providing higher levels of control, reliability and efficiency.

A power limiter using a load switch

Constant current limiting circuits are commonplace, but sometimes a constant power limiting function is desired instead. This can be because downstream loads, like DC/DC converters, present a constant power load to their supply voltage, as delivered by the upstream converter. If the supply voltage to the DC/DC converter load exhibits significant tolerance, then a simple current limit may not deliver enough power to the load under all the voltage conditions. Setting a constant current limit to deliver the required power during a low supply voltage condition would result in greater power being demanded at the higher supply voltages during an overload condition. This article shows how to make an approximate constant power limiter.

Half-bridge motor drivers save time

A family of NovalithIC components from Infineon integrates the control chip and MOSFETs into a single component. Rutronik expects this to bring a new level of performance to integrated and protected motor drivers.

The benefits of using non-isolated DC/DC converters

The DC power requirement for electronic industrial equipment often consists of a 24V high power output and a number of lower power, lower voltages. Traditionally these requirements have been achieved by a number of power architectures, depending upon the amount of system power required.

Could a 1mm thick solid state battery drive the development of the IoT?

Researchers have been searching for alternatives to the ubiquitous lithium-ion battery for some time. A number of reasons support the research, including the need for greater energy density, lower self discharge and longer life. A further driver for this work is safety; lithium-ion batteries can be dangerous if they get too hot or are not charged correctly.

Do You Have a Plan B?

Being a Sci-Fi geek, I am a fan of the late 1950’s Hollywood “cheesy” low budget Ed Wood movies typical of this genre. One of my favorites is: “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” in which aliens come to Earth to stop humanity from building a doomsday weapon that could destroy the entire universe. However, things did not go quite as planned and the aliens were annihilated. Clearly, the aliens did not have a plan B, just in case plan 9 did not work!

Squeezing more out of less

How is innovation in rechargeable lithium cells helping designers to overcome power limitations in miniature devices? Matthias Dorsch explains.

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