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DIGITAL TWINS Use of digital twins in power electronics development

From Luke James

Digital twins are virtual replicas of physical assets, systems, or processes that enable the running of accurate simulations for performance monitoring, diagnostics, and process optimization to deliver business value.

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In practice, a digital twin is based on sensors that gather real-time data and connect to a cloud-based system that receives and processes it all.
In practice, a digital twin is based on sensors that gather real-time data and connect to a cloud-based system that receives and processes it all.
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Imagine being able to replicate a system and, by doing this, accurately predict its future. In the context of power electronics, this could completely change the game. In power grids, which are becoming more decentralized and operating nearer to their limits, this could help to avoid blackouts and improve operational efficiency; a significant advantage to say the least.
This is something that could be made possible by digital twins—a virtual representation of physical assets and processes that are used to understand and optimize their operation.

What are digital twins?

Put simply, a digital twin is a virtual model of physical assets and processes and, in essence, is a computer program that uses real-world data to create simulations. This pairing up of the physical and virtual worlds enables the analysis of data and the monitoring of systems in real-time to predict and see off problems before they occur. This helps to prevent downtime, optimize maintenance, and plan for the future through simulations.

Although physical twins as a concept has been around since the early 2000s, it’s only in recent years thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) that it has become cost-effective to actually implement. In just a few years, digital twins have become so critical to modern business operations that it was named as one of Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends in 2017.
Today, digital twins are becoming a business fundamental due to their ability to cover the full lifecycle of an asset or process and thus forming the foundations for connected products and services.

How does a digital twin work?

A digital twin acts as a sort of bridge between the physical and digital world. In practice, a digital twin based on sensors that gather real-time data and connect to a cloud-based system that receives and processes it all. This is then analyzed against other operational data to uncover opportunities within the virtual environment that can be applied to the physical world.

Applications of a digital twin

Due to its inherent flexibility, a digital twin concept has several applications and use cases. In manufacturing, for example, a digital twin could be used to optimize and plan for future production. Meanwhile, in power electronics development, a digital twin might be used to estimate the remaining lifetimes of critical system components such as power semiconductors by measuring their usage and resulting cumulative deterioration.

While digital twins have a variety of use cases, they’re particularly useful in the energy sector where they are used for smarter management of resources. With digital twin technology, electrical systems operators can manipulate the conditions of digital assets for planning purposes without interfering with the actual operation of the physical asset, such as a power grid or power plant.

With further advances in artificial intelligence (AI), digital twins are expected to play an increasingly important role as more businesses look to get more from their processes and systems without having to dedicate large amounts of resources to the effort.

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