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Power Electronics

In contrast to traditional electronics, which is all about handling data, power electronics is all about handling power: generating it, converting it, and moving it from source to load. This technology finds applications in a wide range of industries including power utility generation and distribution; automotive; and consumer electronics. Thus, the power handling ranges from terawatts to milliwatts. Several trends are increasing the challenges that designers of power electronic devices must overcome, as detailed below.

  • Power utility generation and distribution - For the power grid, renewable sources such as photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbines present challenges not found in traditional power stations where the fuel can be bought close to the point of use. Locations with favorable wind and sunshine are not necessarily close to locations of consumption, so the plant must be brought to the “fuel”, and an extended distribution span is needed. PV sources are generally DC, necessitating high-power inverters to join them the AC grid.
  • Automotive - Even conventional-fuelled vehicles contain dozens of small- to medium- sized electric motors, an alternator, a traditional battery, and electronic subsystems, with the amount increasing every model year. Designers of electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) face the additional challenges of high-power drive motors, generators in regenerative braking configuration, and high capacity batteries. The problem of drive train control becomes one of mechatronics: the combination of electromechanical components, power electronics, microcontroller chips (e.g. engine control units or ECUs), and control software.
  • Consumer electronics - Devices such as smart phones and a new class of devices that will form the “Internet of things” (IoT) are generally battery powered and of a compact form factor. Power conversion efficiency is key to long battery life and to prevent overheating. Power management units (PMUs) are specialized ICs, customized for these high-volume applications. The designs are tightly constrained by efficiency, form-factor and of course, given the short product cycles in the consumer space, time-to-market. 

Keysight offers multiple product families and solutions to help with your power electronic design and test needs.