POWER ELECTRONICS TRENDS These six technologies will shape power electronics in the next few years
Power electronics is a branch of electronics that deals with the generation and utilization of electrical energy. Since its emergence, power electronics relies heavily on semiconductors, and converters, and focuses on miniaturization and renewable energy. The article explores six technologies that may dominate power electronics in the near future.
What does the current power electronic industry rely on?
Power Electronics is the field of generation, design, control, conversion, and conservation of electric power and its efficient use.
In the field of power electronics, power semiconductor devices play an important role in various applications. Power semiconductor devices enable applications to operate on high voltage, current, or power ratings. Most power semiconductor devices are lightly doped with an N+ buffer layer to increase these ratings.
Efficient converters are the backbone of power electronics. It is because power electronics rely on converting electric power from AC to DC and DC to AC in renewable energy systems, consumer electronics, control systems, manufacturing equipment, etc. Another important use of converters is in renewables such as electric vehicle battery charging systems.
Power devices are used in a variety of renewable energies like solar energy, wind energy, hydro energy, tidal energy, geothermal energy, etc. The US Department of Energy defines converters in solar energy systems as “Solar Power Electronics Devices”.
Energy storage devices
The energy storage devices in power electronics like capacitors, supercapacitors, batteries, etc, play a vital role in storing the energy and supplying it at a quicker rate. Calculating the right parameters like energy and power density enable reducing the size of the power electronic systems and the entire cost involved.
Six emerging technologies in power electronics
1. Superconductive materials
Superconductivity is the property of certain materials to possess zero electrical resistivity and infinite conductivity when cooled below the critical temperature. The current inside a superconductor could technically go on forever but there is a limit of 10,000 years. Such current is termed perpetual current requires no electric source to flow and is used in superconducting magnets.
According to a CERN report, superconductive power devices are set to increase the power density of several applications. Such power superconductive devices would support the operation of devices at cryogenic temperatures: -130 degrees Celsius to -273.15 degree Celsius (absolute zero). It is because superconductive materials possess their properties at lower temperatures close to -253 degrees Celsius.
2. Magnesium ion battery
Lithium-ion batteries are used in consumer electronics and electric vehicles worldwide. But recent advancements have been made to develop alternatives to lithium-ion batteries. Alternatives like sodium ion battery, magnesium ion battery, zinc ion battery, aluminum ion battery, etc, have been explored. However, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to implement a magnesium ion battery and several other alternatives.
A magnesium cation (Mg+2) battery utilizes magnesium ions to carry charge in an electrolytic solution and act as the anode. Researchers are focusing on rechargeable and non-rechargeable types to replace Lithium-ion batteries. The availability ease of Magnesium compared to Lithium and the presence of two electrons makes it a better choice for energy storage options.
3. Talkative power
Talkative power is the integration of power electronics and communication systems. Power converters use the frequency hopping spread spectrum technique at the output. Such converters obtain Talkative Power at the output. Talkative Power can be defined as a combination of DC power and information signal. The converter devices to produce talkative power are currently a subject of study and research. So far Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) technique is widely used with converters instead of frequency hopping spread spectrum.
4. The technology of 6G
5G has been recently implemented all across the globe but 6G testing has already started in countries like South Korea, China, and Japan in different ways. The terahertz frequency bands and millimeter waves are said to be used in 6G technology. Experts predict that 6G would be successively implemented around 2030 in a decentralized manner. The impact of 5G on power electronics urged high performance of hardware and efficiency of cell towers but 6G will demand more due to the upper-frequency bands and high speed. The technology would require more use of radio frequency power devices because of upper-frequency bands.
5. Power smart homes
The use of power electronic devices is said to become common worldwide through smart home implementation. Contrary to IoT-powered smart homes, a power smart home can be defined as a self-sufficient house that is capable of generating its own electric power and supplying it on the grid against a chargeable fee. Solar panel houses generate their own power but lack several features. People are soon expected to control their electricity in smart homes through mobile phones, deploy monitoring, and even charge their electric vehicles at home!
6. Aluminium Nitride: The new semiconductor
Aluminium Nitride (AlN) is an emerging semiconductor in the power electronics and RF industry. AlN acts as a semiconductor, insulator, and semiconductor under different conditions and temperatures. Recently, an Aluminium Nitride wafer was developed in Germany that showcased its physical and semiconducting properties. The exceptional wafer showed high thermal conductivity, the capability to withstand extreme environments, and many other properties. However, the availability and cost of manufacturing AlN compared to SiC and GaN is a challenging process for the coming years in power electronics.