Evolution of Power Electronics – Advancements and Exhaustive R&D Activities in the Power Devices

0
9
Power Electronics

A Brief Introduction….

Power electronics is the application of solid-state electronics to the conversion and control of electric power. Starting with the first high power electronic devices in 1902 with mercury-arc valves, the present day has seen much improvements in their design and structure. Today, the conversions are performed using semiconductor switching devices like diodes, thyristors, as well as power transistors like IGBT. These devices possess optimum forwarding, reverse backing, simplified circuitry, and compact designing capabilities.

Power electronics involves the processing of substantial amounts of electrical energy, as opposed to electronic systems, which are involved with transmission and processing of data and signals. Switching electronic circuits used to regulate the flow of energy are known as power electronic devices. The devices are useful in connecting power grids to renewable energy resources and are used in electric trains, lightings, and motor drives. The heat sinking and soft start of motors provided by power electronics devices enable optimum energy consumption and efficiency at low costs.

The devices have experienced several up gradations and developments across different industry verticals. One of the most common power electronics device is the AC/DC converter (rectifier), which finds application in a number of consumer electronic devices like personal computers and television sets. Manufacturers and researchers are undertaking extensive R&Ds to achieve technological advancements. Smart grids have been one of the biggest breakthrough in the field of power electronics in recent times. They are expected to play a significant role in the transformation of electrical networks.

Industry Scenario

Optimization of energy consumption (for reducing energy losses) and efficient usage of available resources are the areas that manufacturers are focusing on. The power electronics industry is witnessing a greater investment regarding the reduction in energy consumption and improving productivity. Manufacturers are currently involved in finding ways to reduce the complexity involved in the process of depositing materials such as Gallium Nitride, Silicon Carbide, or Gallium Arsenide on the silicon material which can impact device production.

Silicon, being a vital component in the manufacturing of any electronic device, accounted for more than 80.0% of the power electronics market share in 2016; however, in recent years, silicon carbide (SiC) has emerged as a leading material to replace silicon, on account of them being expected to have a critical role in electric vehicles (EVs), as well as associated infrastructure, such as charging stations. Sapphire is gaining considerable attraction in the consumer electronics and telecom industries, owing to its increasing applications in smartwatches, smart wearables, LED lights, and smartphone cover glasses.

Jack Of All Trades…

Power integrated circuits (ICs) are being extensively used for power amplification and high-frequency range applications in the industrial, ICT, aerospace, and defense sectors. In terms of the type of device, there is a huge demand for discrete power electronics, with the growth of hybrid and electric vehicles expected to drive this segment in the coming years. Power discrete devices also help in reduction of energy consumption, and are useful in various sectors such as ICT, automotive, industrial, as well as energy and power.

Despite the strong growth of the automotive sector expected over the forecast period, the power vertical is projected to retain its dominance in the applications segment, owing to the trend of refurbishment of the existing power generation, transmission, and distribution systems. Various upgradations in the existing energy & power infrastructure are aiding the power vertical in gaining maximum share and in catering the overall power electronics market. However, as mentioned earlier, automotive, especially electric vehicles, have proved to be an attractive sector for these products, and are expected to show continued growth in the coming years.

Factors behind industry growth:

  • Use of renewable energy sources has gained a lot of attention in recent years. Coupled with this, continued developments in the power infrastructure sector has been a major growth factor for the power electronics market.
  • The European Commission has set a target to achieve 20% and 27% of the total energy consumption from renewable energy sources by 2020 and 2030 respectively, and power electronics devices will have a significant role in achieving this goal.
  • Battery-powered portable devices have witnessed high demand in the past few years, with consumer electronics and automotive sector in particular seeing exceptional growth, and this is expected to factor in the market growth.
  • These devices can survive extreme environmental conditions, have an extended life that suits rugged industrial applications, and are also highly efficient and reliable, which increases market attractiveness of power electronics.
  • Rising adoption of electric vehicles across the globe has increased the demand for these products, as they are also critical components in EV accessories.

However, a few hurdles remain. As devices are getting smaller and slimmer, there is a continued effort by manufacturers to offer multiple functionalities on a single chip, which has led to increased complexities requiring careful approach, as well as the presence of advanced toolset and powerful methodology, which increases cost of production in power electronics sector significantly. There is also the issue of integrating multiple ICs into a single device, and this can prove to be challenge for competitors wanting to enter the market.

Recent Developments

Major companies involved in the design and development of power electronics devices include Texas Instruments, Inc., Renesas Electronics Corp, Mitsubishi Electric Corp., STMicrolelectronics, Fuji Electric Co., Ltd., Qualcomm, Inc. and Infineon Technologies AG. These companies contribute to the majority of the market revenue. Some of the recent developments that have been overseen by the competitors in the power electronics market include:

  • ROHM announced in January 2020 that it’s group company SiCrystal has signed a multi-year silicon carbide (SiC) wafers supply agreement with STMicrolelectronics. The agreement details the supply of 150mm SiC wafers worth more than USD 120 million, by SiCrystal to STMicroelectronics, during a 5-year period.
  • Qualcomm completed the acquisition of RF360 Holdings Singapore Pte. Ltd., a joint venture between the former and TDK Corporation, in September 2019. The JV provides RF front-end filters that enables Qualcomm to offer 4G/5G RFFE solutions.
  • June 2019 saw the start of the European cooperation project ‘Power2Power’, which involves the R&D of innovative power semiconductors through the involvement of 43 partners from 8 countries. Infineon Technologies Dresden GmbH & Co. KG is the project co-ordinator.
  • In March 2019, Texas Instruments added a smart AC/DC linear regulator to its large linear regulator portfolio, called the TPS7A78. The device offers 75% higher efficiency and twice the power density of general linear regulators.

Access full research report on global power electronics industry: www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/power-electronics-market