Lean Mean Machine

Keep it low, keep it managed. Paul Whytock reports on some of the latest developments in the international power electronics industry.

According to industry analysts, the six different technologies competing in the $10 billion electronic ballast market all complement each other. That means all should grab a reasonable share of the market revenue. Add to that the belief that unit sales are expected to grow at an average annual rate of 12.1% from 2005 to 2010, and the ballast firms should do well. But Darnell's recent report on this sector suggests that some ballast market segments could be threatened by the advance of new technologies, particularly by high-efficiency LEDs. Despite that, though, the report thinks each segment within the ballast industry will remain strong over the forecast period.

For example, consumer demand for flat-panel computer monitors and flat-panel televisions is leading to explosive growth for the CCFL market. It's estimated to have the most growth of any segment, with an average annual growth rate of 15.4% over the forecast period. Although the immediate future looks bright for CCFLs, the long-term may be a little gloomier with the emergence of LED backlighting. Although it's currently limited, LED backlighting is expected to eventually offer better colour rendering and less power consumption.

Moving away from ballasts but keeping with the theme of reducing power consumption, Intersil just developed a family of volatile, digitally controlled potentiometers (DCPs). Hailed by the company as the smallest volatile 32tap DCPs available, these devices are designed to address the need for high-volume, space-constrained applications that require ultra-low power, such as LCD contrast and backlight brightness control in cell phones, PDAs, and GPS receivers. Other applications include industrial automotive control, parameter and bias adjustments, and laser diode driver biasing.

In the UK, Analog Devices Inc. announced a new JFET input op amp and a family of low-power voltage references that are optimised to achieve a combination of high precision, very small footprint, and very low power consumption for industrial and instrumentation applications. The ADA4000-1 offers the best precision of any op amp in its class, claims the company, with 80% lower input bias current and 50% lower offset voltage than some solutions. ADI's iPolar trench-isolation process technology allows the device to reduce power consumption by 75% in a package that is 75% smaller than existing solutions. The cool thing (pun not intended) about this is that it reduces or totally cuts out the need for heat sinks or cooling fans.

Switching over to Fuerstenfeldbruck, Germany, National Semiconductor also focused on reducing power consumption by adding three new members to its family of gigahertz-speed analogue-to-digital converters (ADCs). They are the ADC08D1500, a dual 8bit converter capable of sampling one analogue input at 3 Gsamples/s when operating in dual-edge sampling (DES) mode or two inputs at 1.5 Gsample/s; the ADC08D500, a dual, 500-Msample/s 8bit converter; and the ADC081500, a single version of the ADC08D1500.

Meanwhile, in San Jose, California, Micrel decided to extend its family of limiting post amplifiers. It has unveiled the SY88903ALKG, a 1.25 Gb/s limiting post amplifier featuring 3.3V operation with better than 5mV sensitivity. The IC is the latest part in Micrel's next-generation family of post amplifiers, first launched in early 2005 and designed to work at gigabit and Fibre Channel data rates.

Remaining in California, Power-One announced the Pow-Com Web-browser-based power-systems software. This multi-level, secured-access solution uses an intuitive graphical user interface to centralise real-time control, monitoring, and testing of individual rectifier modules, control modules, and batteries installed at multiple remote locations. PowCom Web software is very scalable, according the company.

At its headquarters in El Segundo, International Rectifier unveiled a 20V Direct-FET MOSFET synchronous buck converter chip set (see figure). The IRF6610 and IRF6636 small can DirectFET MOSFET pair have performance similar to a pair of SO-8 MOSFETs with a 40% size reduction. The chip set is designed for high-frequency, point-of-load (POL) designs where size, efficiency, and thermal performance are critical design considerations. The IRF6610 has a low gate charge of 10nC, minimising switching losses for an optimised control FET function. The IRF6636 is a versatile DirectFET power MOSFET with 4.5milliohm device on-resistance and a low gate charge of 18nC. It can be used as either a synchronous FET for 15A applications when coupled with an IRF6610, or a as a control FET when used with the IRF6691 for 35A-perphase, multi-phase applications.

Linear Technology released the LTC3809-1, a No RSENSE synchronous step-down controller in a 3mm x 3mm DFN-10 (or MSOPE-10). The device's 550kHz frequency and currentmode architecture with MOSFET VDS sensing eliminates the need for a current-sense resistor while delivering efficiencies as high as 95%. The LTC3809-1's input voltage range of 2.75V to 9.8V makes it ideal for single or dual Li-Ion or multi-cell NiMH/NiCd/alkaline applications, as well as standard 3.3V and 5V rails to operate in burst mode with only 100µA of quiescent current, or in a pulse-skipping or forced continuous mode for low output voltage ripple.

Here in Europe, Dialog Semiconductor decided to launch a new general-purpose device for use as a core building block in power-management subsystems in portable electronics equipment, audio players, cellular handsets, and digital cameras.

The DA9025 high-performance power-management controller takes a system-level approach to managing the multiple power domains and voltage requirements of lithium-powered portable applications. Containing four low-power, high-performance, low-dropout regulators, the IC fits between the simple single-function device, such as a low dropout regulator (LDO) or switching converter, and system-on-a-chip ICs. The main benefit of this is that it reduces the cost and PCB overhead of having to build in multiple off-the-shelf, lowintegration power-management components from multiple vendors.

As part of its program to strengthen local support, gain a closer understanding of customers' culture and language, and as part of its ongoing strategy to achieve the highest levels of communication and service, Ericsson Power Modules signed distribution agreements with European distributors Ultimate Renaissance and the French power firm BM Energie. Under the agreements, Ultimate Renaissance will support Ericsson Power Modules' sales in Italy, France, and Spain.

UK-based power-supply specialist XP Power has introduced a low cost, space-saving 15W ac-dc converter with a footprint of 70mm x 48mm (2.75 x 1.89 in.). It saves 20% board space over equivalent parts from other manufacturers, and is designed to eliminate the need for external power supplies in many applications. The CU15-M is an open-frame switcher with 4000Vdc input-to-output isolation. It is printedcircuit-board (PCB) mounted and measures less than 1 inch high. The power supply delivers single outputs from 3.3Vdc to 24Vdc (adjustable ±5%) from 85 to 264Vac.

In Israel, PowerDsine, a pioneer in Power over Ethernet (PoE) solutions, announced that it's granted a license to Netstar Technology Corp. of Taiwan for use of PowerDsine's U.S. Patent 6,473,608 in connection with the manufacture and sale of PoE Midspan products.

PowerDsine's US patent 6,473,608 addresses an Ethernet LAN. Here, "power-enabled" elements are detected so that power can be distributed safely via spare pairs of an Ethernet cable to those elements without affecting legacy devices.

Back to ballasts, Fairchild Semiconductor's Global Power Resource Design Centre in Germany has developed new designs that will help automobile manufacturers meet the proposed European daytime headlight safety regulations (see "Beaming In On Road Safety," p.18). The ballast design, which uses Single Ended Primary Inductance Converter (SEPIC) topology, is ideal for low voltage dc-dc applications such as automobile headlights. The use of car headlights during the daytime is expected to become mandatory in the European Union under plans being discussed by the European Commission to cut the number of road accidents.

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