Vicor CEO shares probable trends in power tech
Phil Davies, VP of global sales and marketing of Vicor plc sat down with Paul Buckley, EE Times Europe power management editor, to share what company sees as the major technology trends of 2014 and how it plans to support sales growth in Europe.
EE Times Europe: What do you think will be the three major technology trends of 2014 and how will they impact Vicor? Where is your sales growth going to come from in Europe?
Davies: The first one that stands out is high voltage DC distribution, which we feel will gain significant traction over the next three to five years. Large datacom and data centre companies are seeing major advantages with HVDC distribution. Additionally, we are seeing companies in the industrial sector showing serious interest in this technology. The nice thing for us is that our proprietary Sine Amplitude Converter (SAC) technology used in our Bus Converter Modules gives us a really big advantage in this market from the viewpoint of density and efficiency. We've just launched the first bus converter module using our new ChiP packaging technology, which is rated at 1.2kW in a very small package (63 x 23 x 7mm). Vicor will also soon be launching higher power versions in the same small package size, which is testament to the SAC capability.
Next up would be 54/48V being used as the hub in datacentres. We are seeing a great deal of interest in this as a way of eliminating the UPS, with its associated power losses, costs and complexity are also reduced and reliability is increased. The backup batteries would simply be fed into the 48V node. Also, with Vicor's Factorized Power Architecture utilizing PRM and VTM chipsets, the ability to go from 48V direct to the point of load is a very attractive proposition in terms of efficiency and density given the trend towards lower and lower voltages with microprocessors and DDR memory
Thirdly, the automotive industry is now looking seriously at 48V distribution in hybrid applications. And another high voltage application is of course in pure electric cars where conversion and regulation of the high voltage (400V) from the large lithium battery stack down to the 12V necessary to power the vehicle electronics and charging of the conventional 12V battery.
Our ability to offer the products that help support and drive these trends is made possible due to the company's long-term focus on high voltage, high ratio conversion architectures and efficient high density products.
EE Times Europe: In which power management technologies do you see Vicor providing a leadership position?
Davies: Our core competence of converting and regulating higher voltages will remain a leadership position for us. Whether it's going from 380V to 48V, 380V to 12V or 48V to 1V, our sine amplitude converter engine, our zero voltage and zero current switching topologies and Factorized Power architecture, Vicor continues to lead the industry in terms of power density and efficiency.
EE Times Europe: What do you see as the major challenge facing traditional power converters in terms of conversion efficiency? How is Vicor aiming to meet this conversion efficiency challenge?
Davies: Our SAC engine is a resonant technology able to run at high frequency with low EMI problems due to its soft switching characteristics. This enables us to meet the challenge of achieving high efficiency in a small, high density package due to the smaller values of inductors and capacitors required. Over the next three to five years well be increasing the switching frequency of these devices from the current 2MHz. We are constantly reducing the power losses; even with a 98 per cent efficiency the two per cent loss can produce a significant amount of heat in a package running at over a kilowatt.
We are continuing to invest heavily in R&D and are constantly analysing where we can reduce power losses and improving what is a relatively new technology. It's not like trying to squeeze another fraction of a per centage point out of an old technology. We have plenty of headroom with our proprietary engines, topologies and architectures and are developing better component parts to help us meet this challenge.
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