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NSF Workshop on Power Electronics

August 23, 2016

ECE Professor Brad Lehman (PI) and Assistant Professor Mahshid Amirabadi (co-PI) were awarded $50K to host a Workshop on Power Electronics at NSF this fall.

Source: NSF

Power electronics are electric circuits that frequently combine fast switching actions, filtering, and advanced control methods in order to convert one voltage form into another voltage form, with a goal of 100% power efficiency and low cost. Often this means converting a higher AC or DC voltage into a much lower DC voltage that can power devices, such as appliances, tablets, cell phones, etc. However, sometimes it is necessary to increase the voltage of a DC input power source, such as a solar panel, so that it can power or become connected to an AC load that is at 120 Volts. Virtually all appliances and consumer electronics require a power converter to interface between the power source and the load device, and therefore power converters are vital to the efficiency and cost of virtually all electronic devices. Advancements in power electronics, therefore, have high national impact. They are synergistic with advances in materials science; computer and communications engineering; thermal and reliability engineering; integrated circuits and packaging; industrial design; and many other fields. Historically, power electronics have sometimes been viewed as "supplemental" building blocks to power the main functions of technologies and applications. However, it has recently been realized that this design view leads to inefficient use of energy and can often limit the performance and functions of the final product. By treating the energy processing in a system as a core part of its functionality, the capabilities, form factor and energy requirements of a system can often be greatly enhanced. In crossing this design boundary, the traditional concepts and definitions of power electronics must be reassessed. Furthermore, an infrastructure needs to be established for training the next generation workforce equipped with the skills to support emerging needs of the field. This NSF workshop brings together leaders in the power electronics research and industrial communities to discuss future directions in power electronics research.

A goal of this NSF workshop is to identify and discuss the new ideas in power electronics that can have a significant impact on the functionality, efficient energy utilization and performance of applications encompassing modern electronics, appliances, smart loads, and energy supply devices, among other areas. There is a particular interest in advancements that can greatly enhance energy sources and utilization, and/or which enable important new functions that benefit society. The workshop will create a roadmap for advancing fundamental and practical knowledge in power electronics and associated applications. Special attention will be given to: 1) Opportunities in emerging applications of power electronics, such as computation and communications, robotics, energy generation and utilization, transportation and biomedical applications; 2) Emerging technologies and their impact in power electronics, such as advances in semiconductor devices and magnetics; 3) Emerging design techniques for power electronics, such as multi-objective optimization design approaches, reliability oriented design, ultra-high frequency design for miniaturization and integration, and packaging and modularization methods; 4) Unsolved problems and challenges having large implications for the field, such as oscillations and instabilities in the grid that are caused by high penetration of renewable energy, and accurate modelling of core loss in magnetic components. Additionally, the workshop will provide an opportunity for constructive interactions among researchers from both industry and academia to discuss industrial challenges and identify major obstacles facing the field. The workshop is expected to have significant impact on research and education in power electronics.