As Fundamental as they Come

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



We’re closer than ever to eradicating COVID-19 – vaccines are disseminating, restrictions are lifting, and even if the coronavirus lingers for months (or years), we’re beginning to return to “normal.” But not soon enough.

Next month’s Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC), the Super Bowl of the power industry, will once again be virtual. And while I look forward to exploring APEC from the comfort (and safety) of home, it’s a sobering reminder that the global pandemic is still with us, like an annoying houseguest (that’s killed 3 million people).

Meanwhile, the May issue focuses on the genesis of our fair publication, “power semiconductors.” If APEC is the Super Bowl (or World Cup for our European and Asian friends) of the power industry, this is our raison d'être, our reason for being.

And since power semiconductors are so fundamental to, well, everything, everyone comes at it from their own, unique perspective – everything from thermal management to powering 5G, the foundations of quiescent current, and shrinking electronics.

Analog Devices gives a primer on “Mitigating Heat Problems in Modern Computer Power Systems.”

These days, the name of the game is higher power and lower supply voltages, and so, “At high power densities with low output voltages, the problem of heat dissipation rises to the top of the design priority list,” notes ADI’s Molly Zhu and Fei Guo.

Avnet Abacus focuses on the pending 5G revolution, which, by 2025, should result in global data traffic of 160 exabytes, with connected devices exceeding one million per square kilometer. We’re nearly there already – as of 2020, global smartphone users numbered 5.22 billion, about 66% of the world’s population. In China, alone, over 900 million people own a smartphone.

Needless to say, 5G’s power requirements will be extraordinary.

“5G is expected to require twice or more power than a typical 4G base station. This increase, along with the expansion of the network, means operators are facing large increases in their energy consumption,” says Jon Cooper with Avnet Abacus.

Texas Instruments comes at our topic from yet another distinct angle – “Understanding the Foundations of Quiescent Current in Linear Power Systems.”

With battery power more critical than ever – especially in portable medical devices, consumer electronics, and building automation products – the focus falls squarely on quiescent current, aka standby current.

And as TI’s Wilson Fwu explains, to minimize power consumption in these battery-powered devices, these products must spend a majority of time in standby mode.

The final article I’d like to highlight deals with “Shrinking the Physical Layouts of Power Systems Designs.”

Mouser Electronics’ Paul Golata delves into how technologies like MOSFETs and wide bandgap semiconductor materials can help with the push to save space.

“Wide bandgap material components and integrated architectures might be two techniques that power supply designers … consider when they desire to save physical board space in their next design,” Paul says.

Best Regards,

Jason Lomberg

North American Editor, PSD