For many years, power supplies in electronic equipment (including ac-to-dc and dc-to-dc converters) have been designed primarily using switch-mode topologies. These topologies usually use power MOSFETs as the main switching element. Traditionally, they have employed various analog circuits to sense the input and output conditions of the supply and to adjust accordingly the operation of the pulse-width modulator (PWM) that drives the power MOSFETs.
As one of the most ubiquitous functions in electronic devices, power supplies have been highly optimized. Also, their analog control and management circuitry has been streamlined to provide good performance at the lowest possible cost. But the power-supply market is undergoing a fundamental change, as new control and management approaches using digital circuits begin to gain favor with some forward-thinking companies. These new approaches promise to completely alter the design process and the value chain in the power-supply industry.
Beyond reduced cost, digitalized power offers several advantages over conventional analog approaches:
- Ease of design and use
- Smaller form factor
- Lower power dissipation
- Flexibility in design, manufacturing, and modified operation
- The enabling of as yet unimagined new applications
- Scalability and reusability
Because of these features, the global market for digitalized power semiconductors most likely will expand to $570 million in 2010, up from $8 million in 2005. By 2015, revenue will expand to $1.5 billion.