Moderated by Alix Paultre, Editorial Director, the Roundtable is where industry players talk about market and industry trends. This month's question is: Everyone talks about “Green” technology, but it means a great many things to a great many people. What does “green” technology mean to your company?
Cees Links, CEO, GreenPeak (www.greenpeak.com)
With the arrival of wireless sense and control networking products, the appetite for batteries is exploding. This includes remote controls, security systems, thermostats, weather stations, and so on. For example, every year around 500 million TV and other remote controls are shipped, usually with two batteries – about 1 billion batteries that later will need to be disposed of. The lifetime of a remote control is about 10 years and a remote control “consumes” on average 1 battery per year. So every year 5 billion batteries are put into the environment.
GreenPeak decided to tackle this challenge. By using ZigBee RF4CE ultra low power remote controls, we can reduce this 5 billion number by a factor of 10. By using radios that consume 1/10th of the power to operate, we can now build remote controls that can run on a single battery for more than 10 years, exceeding the life of the remote control itself.
We even can eliminate batteries altogether! By using ZigBee Green Power, GreenPeak created a way to make wireless electrical switches that do not require any battery at all: the energy that is required to “flip a switch” is captured and used for instantaneous data communication, turning something on or off.
GreenPeak believes that it is important to stem the increasing flow of batteries while at the same time increasing the opportunities for more and better sense and control networks that also can help us to reduce overall energy consumption: a double win!
Jeff Schnabel, VP Global Marketing, CUI (www.cui.com)
As a player in the power electronics industry, CUI finds itself at the heart of the "green" technology discussion. Although the term is sometimes overused, green power continues to be the preeminent topic when discussing our roadmap with customers, and thus dominates our internal design and development efforts. As applications continue to increase in current consumption and complexity, designers are looking for power solutions that are both smart and efficient.
To address these trends, CUI has undertaken a couple recent initiatives through our Novum Advanced Power line. First, we have developed a portfolio of digital power modules that allow the user to optimize efficiency in their system and monitor a number of critical parameters. Second, and perhaps more significantly, we have developed a proprietary power topology named Solus that will allow us to greatly increase efficiency and power density across a number of upcoming power platforms. This is achieved through Solus' ability to significantly reduce switching losses in the PWM circuit.
Our view is that the green movement in the electronics industry will only continue to pick up steam, and we are working hard to put the pieces in place to best address the impending market shift toward efficiency maximization.
Todd Hanson, Director of Strategic Marketing and Wireless Solutions at Honeywell Sensing and Control (sensing.honeywell.com)
Low power industrial wireless can provide a variety of “green” advantages. In addition to less cabling, connectors and insulation, low power wireless switches reduce power draw and extend battery life, which means fewer batteries manufactured and disposed of.
There are also additional real world application benefits. One example is the fume hoods widely used in high technology industries such as hospitals, electronic manufacturing and university labs. These fume hoods are a large contributor to wasted energy costs as a single hood running for 24 hours can consume as much energy as a single family home in the same amount of time.
A large U.S. university discovered that on average, 67 fume hoods were left open at night and 88 were left open during the day. In fact, 45% of the building's entire electrical load was due to fume hoods, including ones left open while not in use that let the building heat and air conditioning escape. At the end of a day, a maintenance team currently has to physically inspect each and every lab and classroom, looking for open hoods. The report found that efficiently using switches on these hoods could save up to a million dollars per year in energy costs.
Honeywell's Sensing and Control came up with a solution. By using wireless limit switches mounted on every fume hood, it would be possible to monitor the open or close status of each hood and to send that information, via the cloud, to a central location or to mobile devices like laptops or smart phones. The building’s maintenance manager could then see the real time status of each hood and its location, to make sure that the hoods not in use are closed. In addition, this open/close status would be entered into a database which would enable the University to keep their professors accountable for their labs and students.
Mark Cejer, Business Manager, Keithley, (www.keithley.com)
To be more efficient, next-generation electronic devices need to use semiconductor components that are much efficient than today’s. We're seeing most activity in applications that have the most potential benefit (cost savings) from efficiency gains – alternative energy sources such as Solar and Wind, Hybrid / Electric Vehicles and other Transportation areas, Industrial Motor Controls, commercial and residential lighting, and Switch Mode Power Supplies used in consumer electronics, such as PCs and servers.
To improve power efficiency, semiconductor manufacturers will have to reduce leakage currents and lower on-resistances. To do this, manufacturers are working on commercializing new semiconductor materials such as gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC), as well as trying to make existing silicon designs more efficient.
To truly understand the characteristics of these new semiconductor materials, as well as the electronic devices themselves, test equipment must be up to the task. To measure the lower leakage currents and on-resistances, test equipment will have to have better resolution, lower sensitivity, and higher accuracy.
For example, the leakage currents of some of the GaN LEDs power FETs under development are in the nA range. To accurately measure leakage currents this low, test instruments should have pA level resolution. of an accuracy of 100 pA or better. In addition, many of these same devices have milliohm level on-resistances. To accurately measure resistances this low, test instruments should have uV level voltage resolution. And as leakage currents and on-resistances get lower, the test instruments used to measure them will have to get better as well.
David Somo, VP Corporate Marketing, ON Semiconductor (http://www.onsemi.com)
At ON Semiconductor, "green technology" equates to creating silicon solutions specifically designed to improve power efficiency in the myriad of electronics used everyday across the globe. It’s really that simple. For the past decade, a primary focus for the company has been the development and delivery of high performance system-level solutions that significantly better both active and standby power performance. We’ve been extremely successful in this endeavour with innovative ac-dc controllers and regulators, dc-dc controllers, converters and regulators, voltage and current management devices, diodes, rectifiers, IGBTs and MOSFETs for internal and external power supply applications.
By listening to our customers, we also found that simply offering the various semiconductor components needed to build better power supplies simply wasn’t enough. So, to assist electronics engineers tasked with implementing effective power supply solutions, we’ve developed a collection of GreenPoint® reference designs. To date, ON Semiconductor has made publically available 18 proven blueprints -- for ATX and all-in-one desktop power supplies, for LCD and CRT television power supplies, for power adapters ranging from 5 watts to 200 watts, for LED backlight drivers and more – that set performance benchmarks and meet global energy efficiency standards with existing green technology. On Semiconductor is a premier supplier of energy efficient silicon solutions that help to enable green electronics.
Parviz Ghaffaripour, President & CEO, Akros Silicon (www.akrossilicon.com)
When it comes to power management, ‘Green’ invariably refers to efficiency. But total energy management is an approach that not only provides high-efficiency power conversion ICs it also focuses on total system efficiency. The objective is to dynamically control the power by monitoring the environment, resulting in truly green designs.
Energy management IC solutions exceed the traditional boundaries by combining several technologies into the design. Traditionally, semiconductor companies provide a single block component IC (“Bag of Chips” approach) that has been optimized to the maximum for one or two specific parameters. This was an incredible invention; however, it leaves the daunting task of making that IC work within the system up to the system designer. Today, the system designer must find a way to make this Bag of Chips -- comprising components by different vendors, designed at different times -- work together. This is not a green system design, neither is it a total energy management solution.
Our approach is to integrate the essential energy management features into the power management device. For example, Akros Silicon’s new Energy$ense products combine dynamic features such as sequencing, high-speed multi-rail on/off, voltage margining, measuring input and output power and EMI management through sophisticated spread-spectrum clocking to affect even greater energy savings. Using a simple I2C interface, the system designer can monitor and control the system’s energy performance. This makes the system designer ‘s job much simpler and effective while saving time and money.
Patrick Le Fèvre, Marketing and Communications Director, Ericsson Power Modules (www.ericsson.com)
To Ericsson, green technology means reducing our customers’ environmental impacts through strong leadership in energy-efficiency and environmental performance. A fundamental element of this is promoting new business opportunities and ICT-based solutions for a low-carbon economy (ICT= Information, Communication and Technology). This has led to an increased focus on the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar for telecom.
However, since 1983, Ericsson Power Modules also been at the forefront of developments in DC/DC power modules for distributed power architectures that have become popular in ICT and industrial applications. Year-after-year the efficiency of these products has been improved incrementally.
Then, in the last 3 years, the advent of intelligent digital power has created step-function improvement in power system efficiency, arguably the biggest improvement since switched-model power supplies replaced their linear-regulated counterparts. In power systems that employ advanced intermediate bus architectures, intermediate bus converters now communicate with point-of-load (POL) converters. This enables the intermediate bus voltage to be dynamically optimized for maximum power conversion efficiency under a wide range of load conditions.
Simple comparisons of DC/DC converter efficiency at full load are now a relatively crude measure of overall power system efficiency because few systems operate at maximum load for much of their service life. Data centers, for example, only require maximum power at maximum data throughput. Average data rates may be just 20% of the data center’s maximum capability, so the efficiency of power systems at low load is the critical factor in determining the system’s ‘green’ credentials.
To Ericsson Power Modules, ‘green’ technology means developing power conversion products to facilitate power system architectures that deliver class-leading efficiency under real-world operating conditions. That’s how the next big step in reducing CO2 emissions is going to be achieved.
David Nislick, CEO, Excelitas Technologies (www.excelitas.com)
Excelitas Technologies provides custom optoelectronics components and subsystem solutions that enable a range of energy-conserving applications. So for Excelitas, “green” means enabling our OEM customers to create cleaner, safer and more energy-efficient systems for end users around the world.
For example, Excelitas’ infrared sensors are used for a variety of energy conservation applications. Our digital pyrodetectors monitor presence and then automatically switch lights on or off based on occupancy and our high-performance thermopile detector arrays are deployed in intelligent air conditioners which actively direct air flow based on the location of room occupants – both applications that save a considerable amount of energy. In fact, according to a study performed by ERA Technology Ltd., in a single year, Excelitas’ sensors have saved an estimated 22 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. To put this number in perspective, that is approximately the quantity of carbon dioxide released by two medium-sized coal-fired power stations in Europe or the amount emitted if every U.S. car were to drive 700 miles.
Enabling the economical adoption of specialty LED lighting is another way in which Excelitas is working to reduce our planet’s carbon footprint. With lower power consumption, substantially less heat output, and much longer life compared to conventional lighting technologies, our LED solutions are enabling a variety of energy-saving specialty applications from lighting the surgical suite to illuminating the taxiways of one of the world’s busiest airports.
It is no coincidence that Excelitas’ logo is accented with green as one of our key goals is to lead the way in enabling a host of energy-conserving applications that help ensure a greener and more sustainable future for our planet.
Chiman Patel, Founder, CEO, and CTO, WIN Enterprises (www.win-ent.com)
To our company Green Technology means thinking holistically about our products. Products are considered across their design, manufacture, and end of life (EOL) phases.
WIN Enterprise markets motherboards and appliances globally. This necessitates thinking Green. The RoHS directives of the EU and China limit the content of toxic substances in imported devices. Toxic substances must be either avoided or restricted to safe levels. OEMs in the U.S. are just as attuned to RoHS compliance because they generally re-market globally.
We design products to limit their power consumption and heat production. Heat production is important because cooling requires energy. This eats up energy resources, produces environmental waste, and adds operational costs.
Manufacturing is optimized so as to not waste power or to create additional hazardous wastes. With operations in the U.S., Taiwan and China, manufacturing decisions consider proximity to the customer.
End of Life (EOL)
E-waste is a massive problem in terms of its sheer tonnage. The UN Environment Program estimates the globe may be producing as much as 50 million tons per year in e-waste. At EOL, devices are turned over to a nearby recycler. They recover precious metals and dispose of any waste responsibly.
Jake Sailana, Marcomm Manager, ZyXEL (www.zyxel.com)
Since its inception, ZyXEL's mission has been sustainable business development and expansion while recognizing the importance of protecting the environment. ZyXEL regularly carries our life cycle analysis for its products to make sure that we are continually improving our green efforts. ZyXEL’s green policy spans several different aspects:
1. Increasing use of sustainable material in product development and reducing carbon footprint, with special attention paid to the 3-Rs: Re-use, Recycle and Recovery
2. We have developed a complete "Coordinated Information System" that makes carbon emission (Green House Gasses) investigation and management highly practical and remarkably efficient.
3. Environment-friendly manufacturing
4. Promoting a green partner ecosystem throughout the supply chain
5. Developing products that help our customers live green with several energy saving features
6. Promoting environmental protection awareness
Several certifications from leading global organizations confirm our progress towards the ongoing green mission. ZyXEL believes that sustainable business practices are the only way of creating a lasting viable business.
Chuck DeMilo, Director of Global Product Marketing, Lighting Business Group, Luminus (www.luminus.com)
The very nature of solid state lighting is “green” to begin with – it’s efficient and long-lived, contains no mercury or other toxic substances, and is also recyclable. To us, “green technology” means developing and applying cutting-edge technology to LEDs that delivers greater functionality with even more ecological benefits. For example, Luminus’ Big Chip LEDM technology yields more light output per chip than conventional LEDs. That feature alone drastically reduces the amount of LEDs needed for a light source, as well as the components needed to support them - speeding manufacture of the finished good and requiring less raw materials.
As a secondary benefit, Luminus’ chip-on-board LEDs are field replaceable - similar to a miniature module. Easy field replacement of LEDs as opposed to entire LED fixture replacement reduces the carbon footprint even further by eliminating another manufacturing cycle and avoiding both landfill waste and additional post-life recycling.