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Innovation and Advances in Power Electronics

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  • Seminar Series
When May 13, 2013
from 01:00 PM to 02:30 PM
Where Engr. IV Bldg., Shannon Room 54-134
Contact Name
Contact Phone 310-825-9490
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Robert Erickson

University of Colorado, Boulder



It has recently been suggested that “Moore’s Law” will propel innovations in the field of power electronics, and lead to rapid growth in companies engaged in this area. This seminar will use this assertion as a starting point to examine the prospects for advancement of the technology of power electronics:

• Can Moore’s Law be meaningfully applied to power electronics?

•   Is there an analog of Moore’s Law for this field?

•  How does the technology of power electronics advance, and which research directions can be expect to bear significant fruit?

After a brief introduction to power electronics, the above questions will be discussed. Major advances in power semiconductors may soon allow practical electronic control at substantially high voltage and power, enabling new applications such as smart grid functions and higher performance renewable energy systems.  The ongoing advances in control semiconductors are enabling much more sophisticated control algorithms, even at the low power levels encountered in portable electronics.

Unfortunately, the relatively slow evolution of power magnetic materials and capacitors limits the impact of any gains made by semiconductor technology. It will be suggested that future advances should take advantage of semiconductor technology to minimize the reactive element size, loss, and cost. This can be achieved at the cost of greater circuit complexity, and practical approaches to fabricate more complex power circuitry are needed.

Three diverse recent results will be described. Integration of microinverters and dc boost converters directly into roof shingles of a building-integrated solar power system has been shown to be feasible, achieving a 27 mm height for a 250 W module and efficiency of 96-97%. A novel nonlinear digital control algorithm is able to substantially improve the efficiency of noninverting buck-boost converters, cutting the loss in half at some operating points. A modular approach is able to significantly reduce loss in boost applications, while also significantly reducing the size and cost of the required filter capacitors. Each of these examples illustrates how the increasing practical capabilities, sophistication, and complexity of semiconductors can be used to substantially improve power electronics performance.


Robert W. Erickson received the B.S. (1978), M.S. (1980), and Ph.D. (1982) degrees in Electrical Engineering, from the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California. Since 1982, he has been a member of the faculty of electrical, computer, and energy engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he served as department Chair in 2002-2006. He is currently a Professor of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering and is co-director of the Colorado Power Electronics Center. Prof. Erickson is a Fellow of the IEEE, and is the author of the textbook Fundamentals of Power Electronics, now in its second edition. He is the author of over one hundred journal and conference papers in the area of power electronics. In 1996, he received the IEEE Power Electronics Society Transactions Prize Paper Award, for the paper “Nonlinear Carrier Control for High-Power-Factor Boost Rectifier.” His research interests include modeling and control of power conversion systems, modular/multilevel converter systems, and power electronics for renewable energy sources (wind and solar). Since 2006, his research has focused primarily on power electronics in photovoltaic systems. Recent publications in this area include papers on microinverters for BIPV, DC-DC converters for series-string photovoltaic arrays, and on the effects of distributed power conversion on the annual performance of BIPV systems.

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