Murata acquires Arctic Sand for new power tech

Article By : Vivek Nanda

Murata is after a patented power conversion technology that can give its subsidiary, Peregrine, an efficiency and size (smaller) boost.

Murata Co., through Peregrine Semiconductor, has acquired Massachusetts Institute of Technology spin-off, Arctic Sand Technologies for its unique power conversion circuits.

Peregrine, which is known for RF silicon on insulator (SOI) technology and its UltraCMOS technology—a patented, advanced form of SOI for improved RF performance—is a Murata
subsidiary since December 2014.

Arctic Sand was founded 2011 to market MIT-developed technology, for which have applied several patents in the United States. Ray Stata, the co-founder of Analog Devices Inc. was part of Arctic Sand's $9.6 million Series A round back in 2012. Then, Murata led another round of investments ($19 million) early 2016 during which time GE Ventures also participated—the second time.

Technology sells

So what's been pulling the investors to Arctic Sand?

Arctic Sand has patented a technology they are calling Transformative Integrated Power Solutions trademarked as TIPS. The company claims TIPS "enables higher switching frequencies to be used with ground breaking conversion efficiencies." They also claim footprints typically 2x smaller and profiles 2-3x lower.

For DC-DC power conversion, the company uses an architecture that focuses on capacitors and, from what I've read, reduces the size of the inductors—that is what presumably reduces the profile.

Jim Cable, chairman and CTO of Peregrine Semiconductor and global R&D director at Murata Manufacturing issued this statement, “With this acquisition, Peregrine and Murata gain Arctic Sand’s disruptive technology, strong IP portfolio and world-class team. With a vision to revolutionize the power electronics industry, we’re building the power integrated circuit (IC) ‘dream team’.”

Which still doesn't tell us much about the technology. And Arctic Sand hasn't put out technology white papers or datasheets but one of their patent applications starts off thus:

A switched capacitor power converter comprising a first terminal for coupling to a first external circuit at substantially a high voltage, a second terminal for coupling to a second external circuit at substantially a low voltage that is less than said high voltage in magnitude, a first plurality of active semiconductor switch elements configured to transition between first and second states that result in corresponding first and second electrical interconnections between capacitors and at least one of said first and second terminals, wherein, in said first state, first and second switch elements from said plurality of switch elements, when closed, define a DC current path between said first and second switch elements and connect at least some of said capacitors to one another, a plurality of switch-driving circuits, each switch element coupled to and for control by a drive output of one of said switch-driving circuits each switch-driving circuit having a control input, power connections, and a drive output coupled to and for control of one or more of said switch elements, wherein at least some switch-driving circuits are configured to be powered via said power connections of said switch-driving circuits from one or more of said capacitors such that a voltage across said power connections of said switch-driving circuit is substantially less than said high voltage. 

The rest of the patent—inventors David Giuliano (Arctic Sand CTO), Gregory Szczeszynski and Raymond Barrett, Jr—number 9,502,968 is here for your reading pleasure.

Murata and Peregrine have been quick on their feet with the technology. Within days of announcing the acquisition, Peregrine launched the first of Arctic Sand's products: the ARC3C family of LED driver ICs.

Next: Peregrine launches first Arctic IC post acquisition »

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