Pushing Power Forward

In this power-focused edition of Electronic Design Europe, we take the opportunity to look at some of the latest technologies impacting the international power electronics sector.

Firstly, as a result of growing component counts, reduced board space, and increasing current requirements, good thermal management is now a major challenge facing designers of distributed power architectures. Our cover story analyses how the advent of intermediate bus architectures has fueled the proliferation of dc bus converters and non-isolated synchronous buck point-of load (PoL) converters. Using dc bus converters helps to reduce board size and deliver more output power. But the problem is that this places greater pressure on the power MOSFETs. To help designers address the thermal challenges posed by modern distributed power architectures, we look at how International Rectifier (IR) has conducted a number of tests comparing the various MOSFET package options that can be deployed in dc bus converters and synchronous buck converters.

Moving from thermal management to the safety of Europe's pedestrians may seem a quantum leap, but here again power technology plays a big part in making a new road safety campaign a practical reality. Over in Germany, Fairchild Semiconductor's Global Power Resource Design Centre has completed designs that allow carmakers to meet proposed European daytime headlight safety regulations by using new ballast technology that employs SEPIC (single-ended primary inductance converter) topology. The real point about this design is that it is ideal for low-voltage dc-dc applications such as car headlights. The use of headlights during the daytime is expected to become mandatory in Europe.

However, bright new ideas from power specialists are not limited purely to road safety. Creating the right image also falls within their purview. In Geneva, ST Microelectronics recently unveiled a powersupply IC that has been designed to drive the high-current white LEDs used for flash illumination in the latest-generation cameras for mobile phones, digital still cameras, and PDAs. Not only does it provide higher flash illumination levels, but it also extends battery life. How so? It's all due to the low standby current of less than 1microamp that it draws during shutdown mode.

Good power management is at the heart of good power electronic design. So if that can be achieved in smaller, more efficient devices, then OEM designers will always have the tools to create new products. An innovation from Texas instruments will certainly interest them. We report on its design of a highperformance power-conversion IC with smart charging capability that has all essential power transistors on a single device.

Occupying up to 70% less board space versus discrete solutions, the programmable chip delivers high dc-dc conversion efficiency and battery management to one-cell lithium-ion (Li-Ion) powered communication and multimedia devices with multiple voltages, such as smart phones, portable audio and media players, satellite radio, and GPS systems. Just what the designer ordered.

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