Electronics and Semiconductors

A sneak peek into Infineon's latest technologies at APEC 2024

26 February 2024
Electric car charging station. Source: banphote/Adobe Stock

Never has technology moved so fast. Never has the world felt so alive and interconnected. Besides lightning-fast artificial intelligence (AI) developments, every day seems to bring a new advancement and innovation that has the power to change the way we live, work and communicate.

The goal of APEC 2024 -- the Applied Power Generation Conference -- is to give a glimpse of this future and the devices that will energize it. Out in Long Beach, California, from February 25 to 29, a smorgasbord of cutting-edge power electronics devices is about to debut. The Infineon exhibition alone will showcase insights that offer a sneak peek into how our world will be powered in the years to come.

Attendees can expect a sensory overload of presentations on power electronics innovations that will electrify their imagination, including Infineon’s new line of power management devices.

Material benefits of GaN and SiC

Speaking of goals, one of the long-term goals of the power electronics industry is to develop a material that facilitates a smaller, more power-dense energy-supplying footprint. Efficient and lightweight, low in cost, and high in current output, products made from these substances are already present in consumer power supplies, including smartphone power bricks and automotive charging stations. They’re also being integrated into data centers as demand for more AI-driven offsite large language model processing continues to grow.

The point is that these Wide Band Gap (WBG) materials have matured as an integral part of Infineon’s research and development strategy. The power electronics company has two decades of experience finding new ways to intelligently design and utilize gallium nitride (GaN) and silicon carbide (SiC). As a direct quote from their website:

“The key for the next essential step towards an energy-efficient world lies in using these new WBG power electronics materials that allow for greater power efficiency, smaller size, lighter weight, lower overall cost – or all of these together.”

Infineon will showcase its incoming portfolio of energy-efficient power management devices at APEC 2024, diving into their energy-efficient features and sophisticated voltage/current conversion controls, all in service of a greener, scalable energy-consuming future.

The CoolSic and CoolGaN addendum agenda

The aforementioned materials, SiC and GaN, gain their amazingly dense energy storage features by exhibiting a large gap between the valence band and conductance shells in their molecular structure. In terms of electron valency, the bonds between these levels are stronger, further and harder to overcome. Essentially, more energy is stored in a smaller space because it takes a larger charge to shift an electron to the outer orbiting conductance band.

With that in mind, CoolSiC metal–oxide semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETS), which are fast-switching field effect transistors, can be made smaller without introducing more heat into the product. It’s the same with CoolGaN devices, although they have higher thermal conductivity values when compared to similar CoolSiC devices. Ultimately, the next iteration of these devices is expected to appear at APEC 2024, and they’ll be smaller and more energy-efficient than ever.

DC to DC convergence issues are refined and solved

What’s the big deal about converting DC to DC anyway? Well, put it like this: it’s easy to convert AC, as it always has been, probably thanks to Nikola Tesla. Alternating frequencies in power-distributing transformers use the mutual inductance effect to step up or step-down voltages. The required voltage enters a substation, and it’s split into different lines to enter the home. It’s not quite so simple with DC, not when there are no sine wave curves to frequency-generate that mutual inductance effect.

Infineon-derived DC electric vehicle (EV) charger reference bidirectional DC/DC converters are generating buzz at APEC this year for a good reason. Without these compact systems producing large quantities of efficiently generated DC energy, the newest wave of EVs would incur more costly charges from their charging bays. The DC-to-DC power sector is essential, as it makes the competitive performance gap between gasoline-fueled vehicles and EVs wide and sustainable. Sustainability, in a whole other, greener context, is what’s being showcased.

In the old proverbial nutshell, expect longer vehicle ranges and smaller, more compact charging stations that’ll fit just about any sliver of parking space when reference system boards like the REF-DAB11KIZSICSYS are adopted in widespread patterns. Comparable to filtering engine-wearing impurities out of gasoline, smoother, better-regulated DC lines put less strain on electric engines.

Developments like this could, in time, lead to an overall reduction in vehicle components, too. Imagine EVs going further because they weigh less and are streamlined with smaller circuit elements because of improved power management architectures. It’s exciting to think about these innovations and how they’ll push the envelope of what an environmentally friendly electric vehicle can accomplish in the next few years.

As evidenced by the above case studies, sometimes it’s the development of revolutionary power systems, not iterative software or hardware components, that drives future technologies.

What does all this mean for the average consumer?

Over in the mobile devices sector, smaller power bricks charge power-hungry smartphones in a fraction of the time older chargers could achieve. They never get hot, nor do they balk at being connected to a wide range of Android devices. They also take up very little space. The latest generation of power MOSFETS from Infineon will shrink their carbon footprints even more.

All week charged smartwatches, and several-day usage patterns for smartphones, both of these highly sought-after device utilization shifts become possible when efficient power output management circuitry is made available to the masses. On a larger scale, those DC/DC boards make life easier for early adopters of EVs.

Finally, data center power optimization is one of the more fascinating parts of Infineon’s decarbonization efforts. With AI heating up these already sweltering, server-laden spaces, it’s up to features like high-density dual-phase power modules and liquid cooling to keep services like ChatGPT power efficient. How else can mischievous AI enthusiasts be expected to keep generating endless images of anime cats in hats or asking perplexed machine intelligences about the meaning of life?

To contact the author of this article, email GlobalSpecEditors@globalspec.com

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