One Giant Leap for the Power Industry

Ally Winning, European Editor, PSD



Welcome to the July/August edition of Power Systems Design. Traditionally, things quieten down a bit over the summer period and we get a chance to take some well deserved rest and relaxation. This year that rest is even more welcome as things seemed to increase in intensity as the year went on.

Things came to a head at PCIM in Nuremberg in June. This year’s show had groundbreaking innovation across the industry. To try sum it up in a couple of sentences is difficult, but I think it is safe to say that this year wide-bandgap materials truly came of age. It would possibly be more accurate to highlight GaN technology, which was everywhere at Nuremberg. To sum up the show, one senior executive told the press that if we were ever going to write a book, now was the time and GaN should be the subject, because future power engineers will look back at the today in the same sort of way that computer engineers look back at the PC revolution led by IBM and Microsoft in the 1970s and 1980s.

That may be a bit hyperbolic, but there was a sense of history being made at the show. GaN technology is set to penetrate all areas of the industry that use 800V or lower supply voltage. Above that figure, SiC is also making a similar impression, particularly in the automotive industry. SiC has the potential to make the conversion and distribution of power in electrical vehicles much more efficient and the components lighter, which in practical terms means longer driving times and quicker recharging. If we could find a better method of storing power to combine with SiC technology, almost all of the drawbacks of electric vehicles would disappear.

The automotive industry is also the subject of our special report this month. While SiC will play a major part in the industry, it is not the only concern for power engineers in the automotive sector. In electrical vehicles, hybrids, and even fossil fuel driven vehicles, consumers are demanding the latest technologies, whether that be for infotainment, HUDs or many other innovative technologies. These technologies usually depend on highly complex processors with demanding power needs. Designers of consumer equipment have solved these problems, but it is more difficult for designers of automotive equipment, who need to take extreme temperature variations and electrical noise into consideration. This month we have two articles that take different approaches to powering complex automotive applications. The first fro m Analog Devices looks at making the power management ICs used by consumer equipment more rugged, and the second from Cadence looks at solving the problem much earlier in the process. Both methods have pros and cons, what will suit your application best?

Best Regards,

Ally Winning

European Editor, PSD