Power Electronics

Data Points

Chipmaker Publishes Metrics for Efficient Product Branding

National Semiconductor has published a set of criteria that explains how it designates various models of analog and mixed-signal ICs as members of its PowerWise brand. In the white paper, “Defining PowerWise Performance-to-Power Product Metrics,” Rick Zarr, PowerWise chief technologist, presents the efficiency and power-consumption thresholds that its chips must meet to achieve PowerWise status. Zarr also explains the reasoning behind the different metrics and how IC performance and function influence the metrics.

The white paper provides PowerWise metrics for power management ICs, LED drivers, data-conversion chips, amplifiers, comparators, interface chips, timing/clock chips and audio amplifiers. These categories are divided into smaller subcategories, each with its own efficiency or power-consumption threshold.

For instance, the power-management category is segmented into four subcategories of switching regulators and one subcategory for low-noise linear regulators. These categories are differentiated by VIN/VOUT ratios, switching frequency and use in isolated versus nonisolated designs (see the table).

In each power-management IC category, the metric of interest is peak efficiency, and National requires that its products achieve minimum peak efficiencies ranging from 85% to 95%. Meanwhile, linear regulators are judged on a ratio of noise voltage divided by output power, which must be ≤10 µVrms/mW to be branded as PowerWise.

Similarly, in the LED lighting category, there are minimum peak efficiency requirements ranging from 80% to 90% for boost, buck and buck-boost-type LED drivers. In addition to meeting the peak efficiency metric, LED drivers also must have an additional power-saving feature such as a sophisticated dimming control. Metrics for the other IC categories can be found in the white paper, which is available online at www.national.com/powerwise. National currently designates approximately 300 ICs as PowerWise products.

Controller Brings Digital Power Benefits to the Desktop

CHiL Semiconductor, a Tewksbury, Mass.-based semiconductor start-up, has introduced a family of multiphase synchronous buck controllers that use digital intelligence to reduce system component count and improve efficiency in VR11.x-compliant power supplies.

The first member of this family is the CHL8100, which targets voltage regulator (VR) designs with up to four interleaved synchronous buck phases and capable of delivering up to 150 A. The company describes the CHL8100 as “the first digital power solution for high-volume computing.”

To help designers deliver a complete VR design, CHiL is also introducing a high-frequency dual-MOSFET gate driver, the CHL8500, which features a high-speed interface to optimize system transient response.

“Over the last several generations, designers using analog power converters in VR11.x-compliant systems have often been forced to add large numbers of bulk capacitors, resistors and related circuitry to compensate for the limitations of a pure analog approach and manage the fast transients common to high-performance microprocessors,” says Larry Spaziani, vice president of marketing at CHiL. “By taking advantage of advanced digital control techniques, this new controller promises to add flexibility, while dramatically simplifying those designs. In preliminary motherboard designs, for example, we have used the CHL8100 to reduce component count by as many as 40 components and bill-of-materials costs by more than 10%.”

The CHL8100 allows designers to digitally configure the switching frequency of each phase from 200 kHz up to 1 MHz. By storing device parameters in embedded nonvolatile memory, designers can optimize their design without changing external components. CHiL Semiconductor provides a customized GUI that can be used to easily access, set, modify and monitor the parameters.

The controller generates a PWM frequency using a very stable and highly accurate digital clock. Unlike analog techniques that rely on phase-lag-limited feedback loops, the CHL8100 uses advanced nonlinear digital PWM control techniques to reduce jitter and noise and, in the process, address the fast transients generated by high-performance microprocessors. In most cases, the nonlinear response of the CHL8100 allows designers to eliminate two or more bulk capacitors as well as several ceramic capacitors needed in comparable analog solutions.

The CHL8100 controller features a current-balancing algorithm that automatically balances current across each phase during dc and transient operation. This allows designers to more effectively avoid the saturation of inductors, making it possible to use lower-cost components. This same capability also helps designers minimize the output-voltage oscillations common to designs using analog controllers and build more efficient systems.

The CHL8100 is priced at $1.49 each in 1000-unit quantities. It is available in a 6-mm × 6-mm, 40-pin QFN. The CHL8500 is priced at $0.39 each in 1000-unit quantities. It is available in an 8-pin SOIC or a 10-pin DFN.

Manufacturers Announce Plans to Develop Inductive Components

Component manufacturers Hispanic Ferritas-FERROXCUBE of Guadalajara, Spain, and PREMO (www.grupopremo.com) of Malaga, Spain, plan to develop new inductive components for medium- and high-power power converters of the type required in solar power and wind power inverters, fuel cells and other renewable energy applications. Unlike the inductive components that are currently used in such applications, the components developed under this project will be specifically designed for the intended applications.

For example, the performance and cost of the inductive components will be tailored to the needs of the renewable energy systems. The devices will operate at switching frequencies between 5 kHz and 40 kHz,

This project will allow the two manufacturers to develop a base technology to produce an improved core material for power inductors in solar inverters. In addition, Hispanic Ferritas-FERROXCUBE and PREMO will strategically position themselves in the market for renewable energy.

The project is being conducted over a two-year period (2007/2008) and has a budget of 1.5 million euros.

Also collaborating on this project is the Center of High Technology (Alcalá de Henares University), which will be in charge of instrumentation for characterizing developed materials and reliability tests. In addition, the College of Industrial Engineering of Barcelona (Technical University of Catalonia) and PREMO will develop programmable equipment to test ac power inductors in real-load conditions.

Darnell Projects Healthy Growth for External AC-DC Power Supplies

Despite a global economic slowdown, the outlook for the worldwide external ac-dc power-supply market is expected to remain strong, according to the Darnell Group (Corona, Calif.). The firm notes that the International Monetary Fund projects the world economy to grow at a 3.7% rate in 2008.

“In spite of these pessimistic numbers, the demand for applications fueling the external ac-dc power-supply market is expected to remain healthy, with some of the strongest growth coming from the Asian region,” stated Richard Ruiz, an analyst with Darnell Group and the author of this report. “This growth will have a positive effect on both the OEM and consumer markets and will contribute to the expansion of the external ac-dc power-supply market for 2008,” he concluded.

Darnell forecasts the worldwide external power-supply (EPS) market to grow from $6.7 billion in 2008 to almost $10 billion in 2013, a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2%. The worldwide EPS unit market is expected to grow at a somewhat faster pace, increasing from 2 billion units in 2008 to 3.3 billion units in 2013, a CAGR of 11.1%. Although this market is mature, and several segments have slowed, the industry as a whole is still strong and expanding, according to Darnell. Surging demand from emerging application segments is resulting in a changing product mix.

For the purpose of this report, the worldwide market includes North America, Europe and Asia. Overall, Darnell projects steady growth for the external ac-dc power-supply market over the forecast period in each of these three regions. The external power-supply market described in this report covers 22 key applications that use external power supplies.

Online Article Explains How Controller Features Help Satisfy System Design Goals

Power controller ICs have evolved into highly integrated devices with a host of features that can help system designers meet their goals for power-supply performance, cost and design size.

In an online exclusive feature, “Optimizing Power Controller Designs Through Effective Use of Performance Features,” Applications Engineer Ricardo Capetillo of National Semiconductor discusses how the appropriate controller features can help satisfy system specifications, while enhancing the performance of the power supply and the load.

Adjustable switching frequency, feedback voltage accuracy, start-up tracking, power sequencing, prebiased start-up, external reference and synchronization to an external clock are among the features discussed in this article.

“When optimized, they can reduce EMI, transient response times, transient voltage amplitudes, solution size, output capacitance requirements and overall BOM costs,” says Capetillo.

His article will appear June 25 at www.powerelectronics.com in the Power Primer section.

Global Market for Thermal Management Worth $11.1 Billion by 2013

According to a new technical market research report, The Market for Thermal Management Technologies (SMC024E) from BCC Research (Wellesley, Mass.), the global market for thermal management was worth $6.1 billion in 2007. This is expected to increase to $6.8 billion in 2008 and $11.1 billion by the end of 2013, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.3%.

Thermal management hardware ( fans, blowers, heat sinks) accounts for more than 80% of the total thermal management market. The other main thermal management product segments (software, interface materials, and substrates) each account for between about 4% and 6% of the market.

The largest end markets for thermal management technologies in 2007 were the computer industry (57% of total revenues), telecommunications (16%), and industrial/military electronics (9%). By 2013, medical and office electronics should have moved into a tie for second place with telecommunications, each with a 12% market share, followed by consumer electronics (8%).

The Americas, consisting of the United States and Latin America, will maintain their No. 1 position throughout the period under review, with a market share of just under 40%, followed by Asia-Pacific with around 23% to 24%. The Asia-Pacific countries (except Japan) are not only the second-largest market in absolute terms, but they also have the highest projected growth rate.

The development of the thermal management industry is one of the most interesting aspects of the rapid innovation in the high-tech industry. As pressure to achieve higher levels of device integration while reducing cost, size and complexity continues, the issue of managing heat and power dissipation has become increasingly significant.

For more information, see www.bccresearch.com.

Product family Metric Threshold
Switching regulators/controllers (VIN/VOUT ≥ 7) Peak efficiency ≥ 85%
Switching regulators/controllers (FSW ≥ 2 MHz, VIN/VOUT ≥ 1.5) ≥ 90%
Switching regulators/controllers (all others, VIN/VOUT ≥ 1.5) ≥ 95%
Switching controllers for isolated power supplies ≥ 90%
Low-noise linear regulators eN/POUT ≤10 µVrms/mW
LED drivers (boost) Peak efficiency ≥ 85%
LED drivers (buck) ≥ 90%
LED drivers (buck-boost) ≥ 80%
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