Efficient power management involves increasing the power delivery capabilities of electronic devices while minimizing losses and maintaining signal integrity. Nowadays, industries of all kinds are demanding faster and more efficient electronics that can process large amounts of data quickly. However, this demand comes at the cost of increased power consumption, which significantly increases the expense incurred in running these electronic systems.
In a standard data center, electricity accounts for about 45% of the total operating costs. A medium-sized data center might require around 50MW of electrical capacity, which is enough to power 4,000 homes. Since this energy is generated using a large amount of non-renewable resources, consuming this energy puts a lot of pressure on the environment. Therefore, efficient power management solutions are needed to address these challenges.
Current development status of power management
Industries such as electric vehicles (EV) and smartphones have been researching technologies to extend the battery life of their products. Consumers demand uninterrupted service that is cheaper, safer and more efficient. Thus, power management has become an important field with researchers who are dedicated to increasing the power density of semiconductor ICs by increasing the operating frequency while minimizing losses.
They are developing gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC)-based ICs to help enable high-frequency operation. In addition, many leading electronic component manufacturers are also using improved process, packaging and circuit design techniques to meet the industry needs of power management. Power management includes increasing power density, reducing electromagnetic interference, and maintaining power and signal integrity in the presence of high voltage lines.
Efficient power management involves increasing the power delivery capabilities of electronic devices while minimizing losses and maintaining signal integrity. Manufacturers are looking to capitalize on five major trends in order to provide consumers with state-of-the-art electronics to meet their needs. These five trends are: increasing power density; reducing quiescent current (IQ); reducing electromagnetic interference (EMI); reducing noise to improve accuracy; and improving safety when operating at high voltage (HV) through isolation.
AC/DC power supplies: size reduction and software definition
As far as AC/DC power supplies are concerned, whether open frame or enclosed, or even a desktop adapter, the latest power supply devices for medical and industrial applications have something in common: they offer smaller solution sizes and enable Higher power density while delivering higher efficiency.
In addition, many power supply manufacturers are introducing more flexible solutions to meet a wide range of medical and industrial applications. The capabilities of cooling and paralleling power supplies are also important factors. Not surprisingly, these AC/DC power supplies also meet various safety certifications and can operate in harsh environments.
Traditionally, AC/DC power supply designs can only be optimized for specific load and line conditions, because classic analog control and simple pulse width modulation techniques usually operate at fixed frequencies, which results in higher component stress.
Upgrades and changes to existing end products may also be at the mercy of the power supply range—even small adjustments to their output voltage may require significant changes to the power system design. Many applications also specifically require that the power supply be adjustable in some way, for example LED constant current loads often need to be dimmable, or the output voltage of an electrolysis process may need to be programmable in order to determine its reaction rate.
In these cases, usually only expensive custom designs can be resolved. On the one hand, users hope that their terminal products will not be at the mercy of the power supply. On the other hand, power supply suppliers have been exploring how to make their products as versatile as possible. However, past technologies required trade-offs between price and parameters such as size or efficiency. Now that high power density is the dominant mandate for many good reasons, the trade-off becomes unacceptable.
Digital power/software-defined power brings new possibilities, they bring not only software-controlled flexibility, but also versatility. Over the past few years, as design techniques and semiconductor technology have improved, efficiency and power density have improved, and derating problems caused by line and load variations have also been alleviated.
Power device: application of wide bandgap semiconductor materials
Although semiconductor technology is booming today, more devices and systems are still being produced using traditional power electronics systems. We must ensure that the manufacturing of various devices and technologies is sustainable, keeping in mind different safety and environmental norms and increasing efficiency.
Power electronics has changed dramatically with the introduction of wide bandgap devices such as SiC and GaN. In fact, the properties of these materials make them particularly suitable for operation at high voltages and high switching frequencies, and can provide better efficiency and thermal management than state-of-the-art silicon-based power devices.
SiC is an excellent solution for applications at 1,200V and above and above 100kW, where GaN technology struggles to meet such power levels. GaN solutions, however, enable circuit integration because they are lateral. They can operate at very high switching frequencies, up to 40MHz.
Power technologies involved in vehicle electrification
Automotive industry is going through a major transformation. Automakers must make changes to prepare for electric, hydrogen and autonomous vehicles, to comply with increased CO2 emissions regulations and to deliver safer self-driving cars.
One of the first companies to commercialize electric vehicles, Toyota now produces a wide range of vehicles such as fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEV), battery electric vehicles (BEV) and hybrid vehicles. A comprehensive intellectual property strategy covering most of the technologies involved in next-generation vehicles is an important supporter of this repositioning.
Toyota foresaw the transition to hybrid and pure electric vehicles decades before it became a commercial focus. Over the years, the company has created a wide range of battery-related technologies, one of the main factors affecting the performance of electric vehicles (autonomy, speed and safety).
As part of its research program, Toyota collaborates extensively on batteries in Japan and abroad. So, it has acquired intellectual property rights in the main production and commercialization locations of batteries and electric vehicles, and its battery inventions now cover the entire supply chain of current and future potential technologies (Japan, Korea, China, Europe and the United States).
To meet the needs of the electric vehicle market, Toyota is very willing to participate in the improvement of battery characteristics (energy and power density, charging speed, life, etc.). To achieve these goals, Toyota decided to focus on two main directions: improving the lithium-ion battery technology already in electric vehicles, and developing new battery technologies with superior performance.
On the one hand, the company is developing new and existing materials for lithium-ion batteries. These materials include solid electrolytes, NMC/NCA, lithium metal, lithium titanate (LTO/Li4Ti5O12), and silicon. Considering its strong intellectual property position throughout the supply chain, Toyota is currently the most important solid-state battery patent assignee.
Toyota, on the other hand, is working on new battery technologies that theoretically outperform lithium-ion batteries. The business works on mature post-lithium-ion technologies, including lithium-air, lithium-sulfur and sodium-ion batteries, as well as more cutting-edge technologies such as Mg, F, Al, Ca, K and Zn-ion batteries.
SiC power devices for electric vehicles
Denso has been a leading company in the development of SiC MOSFETs since 2018. By transferring its essential patents to Denso, Toyota is looking forward to integrating SiC MOSFETs in next-generation electric vehicles. The entire supply chain, from SiC materials to SiC power devices, modules and circuits, is under the patent activities of Toyota and Denso. Toyota’s intellectual property activities have focused on ideas that would give the company a competitive advantage in electric vehicle applications as it moves down the SiC supply chain.