Electronic Design

Power-Conversion Needs Market-Specific Standardization

The power-conversion industry faces tremendous opportunity for growth. The consumption of electrical power is increasing exponentially. From computers and the Internet to home appliances and automobiles, consumer thirst for enhanced features and widespread use of electrically powered devices is driving up the demand for electricity. The question is how to meet and satisfy this increasing need.

The obvious option is to build more power plants. Or, engineers could develop ways to deliver electrical power more efficiently. Providing more efficient solutions to electrical energy consumption is our industry's opportunity. Ultimately, however, it's also our responsibility.

In the last year more than 50% of the world's electricity was consumed by electric motors. The majority of applications for motors still uses an electromechanical contactor to turn the motor on or off. This wastes electricity and offers only limited motion-control capability. Replacing contactors with electronic variable-speed motor drives will result in an annual savings of up to $72 billion in electricity consumption.

The challenge to companies that design power-conversion products is to continue to provide more efficient, smaller, and more highly integrated products. This can be done by standardizing architectures, providing more efficient packaging, and integrating more functionality into multi-chip modules and single ICs to address specific power-conversion applications.

One of the biggest boosts to the adoption of power conversion comes from standardizing system architectures and offering analog ICs that embody these architectures. Standardized approaches to each market application, such as lighting, motor drive, and power supplies, will result in the ability of end-unit manufacturers to buy "off-the-shelf" solutions. Having complete solutions available for power conversion also will free up valuable design resources for those manufacturers. They'll be able to focus on the proprietary, value-added elements of their own end product.

Improved packaging means increasing power-conversion density. During the next few years, many of the breakthrough gains in that density will come from radically different package designs, such as three-dimensional and chip-scale packages. Plus, as conversion functions become more commonplace, the advantages of packaging multichip devices in small, easy-to-use packages will become more evident.

Enhancements in MOSFET technology are going to convert many traditional output-diode applications to synchronous-rectification topologies. Future growth in the traditional diode market is thereby going to drop. The underlying goal will be to design power-conversion products that take advantage of various process technologies and target their use to give the best solution for a given application.

The solution and end result will be to optimize power-conversion products for specific applications. These optimizations will require access to a broad range of technologies, like design topologies, wafer-processing technologies, and packaging techniques. Companies that have the ability to target applications using multiple technologies, rather than applying a single technology to multiple applications, will be best suited to provide appropriate conversion solutions.

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