Electronic Design

April 27th’s One Powerful Day Delivers Multiple Experts on Power-Related Topics

Twice a year, Electronic Design hosts a day-long live web symposium on power topics we call One Powerful Day—five or six one-hour sessions with audience question-and-answer periods that are then archived on our website. The next One Powerful Day takes place on April 27. You can register for the live sessions or access them later on the site.

Here’s a look at the topics:

The day starts off strong with a presentation on designing products for the Smart Grid. The presenter is Prof. Douglas Hopkins, who is a Research Professor at the University at Buffalo and Director of the University’s Electronic Power and Energy Research Laboratory. I saw Doug’s  half-day special session at APEC 2010, and I thought it was the best thing I’d encountered in terms of bringing together the people who went for the “power option” back in college while the rest of us focused on circuits and controls and semiconductors. This can only be a small slice of what he did in Palm Springs, but he’ll have some links to ways to learn more.

The second One Powerful Day session will be a update on battery technology, presented by Dr. Robin Tichy, of Micro Power Electronics. Micro Power designs and fabricates battery packs, and I’ve moderated a number of Robin’s Electronic Design Webinars, and they’re always fascinating.  This one is subtitled “What kind of batteries are out there, and what are they good for?  The session description says, “Matching battery type to application has become increasing challenging as battery makers have pushed old frontiers backward.  Are lithium batteries inevitably flame-throwers? Is silver too expensive for anything but military applications? How much energy can you really get from a printed battery?  Find out here.”

Session three, on Gallium Nitride devices, will be presented by Dr. Alex Lidow. That’s a combination that ought to bring in a large audience.  Since he left IR, Alex has been working on a new company, Efficient Power Conversion Corp. (EPC), which has developed a line of GaN-on-silicon transistors for power management applications. I’ve seen Alex’ presentation, it’s very low on company hype and very long on what it is about GaN technology that makes a credible challenger for MOSFETs. This is one where audience participation ought to be quite interesting.

Next, something we seldom give enough thought to, packaging power supplies, gets the academic treatment. Dr. Avram Bar-Cohen and Professor McCluskey, of the University of Maryland will address the tradeoffs that impact design considerations relative to EMC, thermal management, physical size, power consumption, etc.

One Powerful Day’s next session will deal with controlling permanent magnet synchronous motors. This is already a big deal with Asian white-goods manufacturers, which means that ultimately PM motors will have global impact.  The promotional write-up for this session says, “As the cost of processor based motor control continues to drop, many applications can now affordably take advantage of the many benefits afforded by PMSM topologies, such as increased efficiency and smoother operation. This session covers the basic operation of PMSMs, and how they can be controlled using Field Oriented Control (FOC) with both sensored and sensor-less techniques. IPM motors are also presented, with a discussion on how their saliency affects sensor-less FOC.” This is the first time I’ve seen field oriented control mentioned in the same paragraph as permanent magnet motors, so this should an interesting talk.  The presenter will be International Rectifier’s Poul Erik Dokkedal.

Rounding out the day will be a session on thermal management presented by design consultant Patrick Loney. As long as we have to deal with the second law of thermodynamics, rejecting heat from electronic system components to ambient air will continue to be a challenge. To deal with this challenge we have an arsenal of heat sinks, heat exchangers, heat pipes, thermal interface material, and forced air cooling, plus several types of thermally-enhanced circuit boards. The issue is how to use them effectively and economically. To help, we have computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to give us a picture of the effectiveness of the cooling technique. The presentation will address itself to putting that all together effectively.

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