Power Electronics

Vicor Corp.: Patrizio Vinciarelli

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In 1970, Patrizio Vinciarelli, a native of Italy, came to the United States with a doctorate in physics from the University of Rome and experience with the European Center for Nuclear Research. During a 10-year career in high-energy physics, he was associated with New York University, the University of Maryland, Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton and Princeton University.

Vinciarelli subsequently left physics to “challenge his imagination” in the young field of power electronics. In the early 1980s, he invented zero-current and zero-voltage switching technologies, which enabled the design of power converters that were much smaller and more efficient than conventional power supplies.

Vicor, the company he founded in 1981, pioneered the first power-component revolution by developing families of high-density “bricks” that could be used as building blocks to create power systems. This innovative approach to power was gradually accepted by power-design engineers and has become a standard in the power-electronics industry.

Vicor's product line of modular brick power components and complete power systems has grown to include thousands of combinations of input voltage, output voltage and power levels, complete with accessory components that integrate other power-system functions. Power designers can use an online suite of tools to design a customized brick or a configurable power supply to exact specifications in minutes. With this approach, Vicor has expanded its reach to more than 8,000 customers in the industrial, communications, data processing, defense and medical electronics markets worldwide.

Today, the power-electronics industry faces new challenges. For example, with each new generation of processor, memory, DSP and ASIC, the trend is toward lower voltages, higher currents and faster speeds. System designers must contend with a proliferation of lower voltages, provide ever-faster transient response, improve overall power-system efficiency and use a smaller power-system footprint. Advances in high-end computing, consumer, telecom, solid-state lighting and other industries make it necessary for the power-electronics industry to develop new technologies to keep pace with evolving power needs.

Vicor is addressing new technical challenges with two new entities, V•I Chip Inc. and Picor, which are focused on the development of innovative power-conversion topologies, power semiconductors and power-management chips.

Factorized Power Architecture (FPA) and V•I Chip power components offer the power architect entirely new ways to meet power-system requirements. The name V•I Chips comes from their ability to multiply currents and divide voltages while essentially preserving the V•I power product (the “•”). Factorized power breaks power conversion into high-performance, flexible and scalable power building blocks. A VTM current multiplier offers speed, density and efficiency levels to meet the demands of DSP, FPGA, ASIC, processor cores and microprocessor applications. A “factorized bus,” controlled by a PRM regulator, supports efficient power distribution and provides 97% efficient regulation. This means that, for isolated conversion, including regulation from 48 V down to 1 V, a PRM and VTM system offers 7% higher efficiency and 60% smaller size than competitive solutions.

In the development process, V•I Chip Inc. has engaged key customers, working together to understand the changing power requirements and to develop new architecture solutions to enable the next generation of power systems for applications in high-end computing, telecom, ATE, solid-state lighting and defense electronics. Having completed the initial development of V•I Chips and transitioned into production, V•I Chip Inc. is now broadening its market focus. At the same time, Picor is applying its expertise in control and power semiconductor technologies to provide a broad range of advanced power-management and power-path products.

New standards for the power-electronics industry will include technology platforms that support efficient power processing, power distribution and power management, and enable superior electronic products. Advanced power components like the V•I Chips will enable Vicor to use its power-conversion expertise and power-component methodology to address the power-system challenges of diverse end markets now and in the future.

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