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.

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.

Power first and last in consumer electronics

The consumer electronics market continues to be driven by smart phones, UHD TVs, wearable devices and virtual reality (VR). But while the smartphone continues to dominate and VR appears to beapproaching a tipping point, with new devices being unveiled this year, it is the wearable market that is seeing rapid growth. It should be noted, though, that many consumer technologies are perceived as having moved beyond what is described as the ‘hype cycle’ and are no longer viewed as technical novelties or gadgets.

How innovation in rechargeable lithium cells is helping designers overcome power limitations in miniature devices

Designers of portable electronics products are familiar with the related challenges of space and weight reduction. It seems there is no limit to consumers’ desire for their devices to be thinner, lighter and sleeker. And in a product such as an earbud (or in-ear speaker), the form factor is absolutely constrained – in this case, by the size of the human ear.

High throughput, low power requirement

For cloud and IoT applications, there is a rising need for flexible GbE firewalls in corporate network infrastructures. With integrated Open Source and x86-based AMD Embedded G-Series SoCs, Deciso’s OPNsense firewall appliance offers double the flexibility. It enables high throughput with low power consumption making it suitable for both enterprise and IoT appliances.

How to achieve ultra-efficiency in 64-bit compute

This article describes how combining dual 64-bit/32-bit computing with targeted enhancements to memory, CPU and power-management features, the latest ARM Cortex-A35 processor delivers the efficiency needed to satisfy the future demands of fast-growing markets for entry-level mobile devices.

ATEX and how this applies to power supplies

The acronym ATEX, derived from the French phrase "ATmosphere EXplosible”, was initially introduced in the European Union to facilitate the free movement of goods and services of equipment used in hazardous environments.The resulting ATEX Directive removed the need to test and document a product for each EU country by harmonising the way different hazardous explosive environments are classified across all industries.

How designers can take advantage of the latest product developments in intelligent power modules

The move to replace simple fixed speed motor drives with more sophisticated variable speed drives (VSDs) is gathering pace, driven by regulations such as the European Commission’s ErP (Energy related Products) Directive. As a result, manufacturers of electric motors are equipping their products with the ability to match their speed and power output to the load, providing for a reduction in average power consumption.

What is the usable power in a DC/DC converter?

The term ‘high usable power’ is widely used by the manufacturers of DC/DC converters to describe their product’s performance. Many engineers though tend to focus on the datasheet’s rated current and assume that, by selecting a more expensive, higher power converter, it will give them more derating and improved reliability.

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