Whether it is electric vehicles, wireless devices, or elaborate network communications systems, power in its myriad forms is the one common denominator needed to keep these devices and systems working reliably, surviving harsh environmental conditions as well as electrical disturbances. Many of the latest advancements in power will be on display at APEC (Applied Power Electronics Conference), whose venue this year is the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio from March 4 through 8.

Conference sessions and exhibits at this year’s APEC reflect a number of trends. They include the industry’s ongoing move toward newer semiconductor technologies such as Gallium Nitride (GaN), the ongoing trend towards digital control of power systems, and continued improvements in performance and packaging for many power-related products.

GaN Stays Hot

GaN semiconductors are emerging as a viable alternative to silicon, given its higher electron mobility characteristics that allow them to be made smaller for a given on-resistance and breakdown voltage than silicon semiconductors. The technology is gaining traction, particularly for applications involving low to medium voltages and high switching frequencies.

At APEC, GaN technology will be on prominent display. One supplier, Transphorm Inc. (Booth 947), will announce a development platform that gives newcomers to GaN technology a “kick-start” platform to incorporate the technology into their product designs. Among other applications, Transphorm has its TPH3205WS 650-V GaN FETs designed into Corsair’s AX1600i power supply, for a high performance gaming application (see Figure 1). The company will also show several GaN evaluation designs, including a 3.3 KW, phase-shifted full-bridge DC/DC converter for high-voltage battery applications and 500 and 800 W DC/DC converters with a 12-V output.

Figure 1: Transphorm's TPH3205WS 650-V GaN FET has been implemented in Corsair’s AX1600i power supply, for a high performance gaming application.

Navitas (Booth 1341), will show a 65-W USB laptop adapter reference design that uses GaN ICs to help shrink size. In addition, the company will present several technical papers on the deployment of GaN, including one on a single-stage, dual active bridge AC/DC converter based on enhancement mode GaN power transistors.

Not to be outdone, Efficient Power Conversion (Booth 1255) will demonstrate GaN technology in a number of designs. These include a high-power density 48 V—12 V non-isolated converter capable of delivering over 700 W, and a high power resonant wireless charging solution capable of generating 300 W to wirelessly power a wide range of devices including cell phones, notebook computers, monitors, wireless speakers, smart watches, and table lamps.

Silicon carbide

The other hot semiconductor technology, SiC (silicon carbide), will also be on display in products and technical presentations. Microsemi Corporation (Booth 1147) will show samples of its next-generation, 1200-V silicon carbide MOSFETs, the MSC040SMA120B. This MOSFET aims at industrial, automotive, and commercial aviation power applications, and offers a high short circuit withstand rating of 3 to 5 microseconds for robust operation.

Microsemi will also release a 700-V version of the SiC MOSFET in coming months, as well as companion SiC Schottky barrier diodes.

Passive components, which play in role in power systems circuits for energy storage and maintaining signal performance, will also be on exhibit. AVX Corporation (Booth 1325) will show its ESCC QPL 3009 PME Series X7R SMT multilayer ceramic chip capacitors. This series, recently extended with 200 V MLCCs in 0805 to 2220 case sizes, span a capacitance range of 330 pF to 330 Nf. These MLCCs are designed to provide higher performance over 200 V MIL-PRF stacked ceramic capacitors and 100 V MIL-PRF surface-mount parts in 100-V circuits.

AVX will also display its SCC Series supercapacitors (Figure 2), which combine very high capacitance with very low ESR and long-lifetime performance of 50,000+ cycles to achieve excellent pulse power-handling characteristics. The SCC Series is rated for 2.7 V and delivers high capacitance values (1–3,000F), low ESR (0.16–200mΩ at 1,000KHz), low leakage (6–5,800µA), and high energy density (1.2–5.6Wh/kg) in a wide range of case sizes with radial, solder pin, or cylindrical leads.

Figure 2: AVX's SCC Series supercapacitors combine high capacitance with very low ESR and long-lifetime performance of 50,000+ cycles for high pulse power-handling.

Digital power control

With digital control becoming more the norm, several companies will show digital control  technology for power supplies. Infineon (Booth 701) will show its new XDP™ family digital controllers for switched-mode power supplies. The IDP2303 and IDP2303A are digital combo controllers with integrated drivers and 600-V depletion cells targeting boost PFC and half-bridge LLC targeting switched-mode power supplies rated 75 W to 300 W. The controllers offer critical conduction mode (CrCM), quasi-resonant discontinuous mode (QR DCM), and active burst mode.

STMicroelectronics (Booth 803) will show its STNRG011 digital controller for power conversion. The part incorporates a multi-mode PFC controller, a high-voltage double-sided controller for the LLC resonant half-bridge, an 800-V startup circuit, and a digital engine. Supplied in a 20-pin SO package, the device is designed to offer an advanced solution for PFC converters meeting stringent energy-saving regulations.  

Portable power

Renesas Electronics (Booth 1436) is demonstrating several intelligent power solutions, one of them is its USB-PD solution which enables USB PD 3.0 and USB Type-C™ power delivery for ultrabook computers, AC/DC power adapters, hubs, and power banks. The demonstration includes a combo USB PD 3.0 controller and USB Type-C™ bidirectional buck-boost voltage regulator with built-in authentication, configurable hardware, and a 5 to 20 V output.

Medical power

A number of power supplies will be on display for applications ranging from household appliances to industrial equipment. For the fledgling medical field, TDK Corporation (Booth 901) will show the XMS500 series, a configurable medical power supply product rated at 500 W output power, with a Class I and Class II construction. It requires low airflow (just 1 m/s) and conforms to curve B conducted and radiated emissions. Applications include home healthcare, hospital, imaging, and clinical diagnostic systems.

Keynote Sessions

Asides from the extensive exhibits, APEC will also host a number of technical sessions, educational seminars, and exhibitor seminars designed to educate attendees on the latest design techniques, products, and technology developments in the power industry. On Monday, March 5, there will also be several plenary sessions discussing not only trends in power technologies but also examining issues facing the power marketplace. Here’s some highlights:

—The Power Supply Manufacturers Association will release an industry report discussing the latest advances in components and system packaging for power modules. Topics include ultra-thin passive components that do not comprise efficiency and power handling; component and package design advances for lower parasitics and improved thermal and thermomechanical reliability with escalating power densities and package temperatures; and advanced 3D power packaging with substrate-embedded components, integrated multi-die packages with gate drivers, double-sided cooling, and planar interconnects.

—Professor Zopa Popovic, Distinguished Professor of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, will overview wireless power transfer for power levels from microwatts to kilowatts. In low power, Popovic will look at far-field harvesting at gigahertz frequencies for unattended wireless. On the other end of the spectrum, his talk examines near-field capacitive power transfer to power stationary vehicles and vehicles in motion.

-Hans Stork, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, ON Semiconductor, will examine the power industry from a business angle: whether the long-term consolidation of companies in the semiconductor industry has affected the development of technologies that improve power efficiency. Stork contends that while many concepts for smaller and more efficient power management have been demonstrated by research and startup companies, full-scale adoption requires significant resources to meet demands for global supply and quality—something large companies with manufacturing and supply chain infrastructure are best equipped to provide.

For more information on APEC, click here.