Industry rises to challenge of energy efficiency
The importance of power electronic devices in controlling electrical systems is increasing as Governments introduce new standards and consumers demand lower power consumption and greater energy efficiency with ever rising energy costs, writes Reinhold Theurer, vice president EMEA, International Rectifier.
In all areas, technology is driving these efficiencies through continuous R & D with developments such as Gallium Nitride (GaN), being quickly adopted as the future power device technology platform for both industrial and consumer applications.
Electric motor drives account for around 45% of global electricity consumption, encouraging new efficiency-focused legislation driving the adoption of variable-speed electronic control. Other equipment such as TV or PC power supplies are subject to ‘ecodesign’ guidelines such as Energy Star, demanding high energy efficiency from standby to full load.
Legislation on low-power lighting is expected to save millions of tons of CO2 emissions through using power-electronics ballasts or drivers. Moreover, to meet the increasing proportion of worldwide energy demand from renewable sources designers will need to select the right power components for important renewable energy applications.
Exciting developments and trends are happening in automotive too, as ‘smart’ cars offer increasing intelligence and support to the driver with outstanding assistance systems. The electronic content of these quite complex systems are exciting for power semiconductor suppliers and driving new requirements and demands to this sector.
Also, the electrification of powertrain continues as increasingly car manufacturers are adding Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEV) and full Electric Vehicles (EV) to their platforms, albeit partly driven to meet stringent emission regulations and targets.
However, the mass adoption of EV and HEV depends largely on achieving cost, size and weight reduction and increased reliability. Achieving these goals requires an innovative, comprehensive approach including the development of specific semiconductor devices and packaging concepts.
Another area of interest is digital power management as it enters a rapid adoption phase after being a niche technology for several years.
Focus on energy efficient products over the next decade is expected to drive an expanding use of digital power management in applications such as DC-DC convertersIn the home appliance segment, new regulations, labelling programmes and demands for increased performance are driving manufacturers to replace electro-mechanically actuated systems using AC-induction or brushed-DC motors with permanent magnet variable-speed drives.
2014 will see IR well positioned for continued growth in areas such as the server market with digital power management, automotive IGBTs for HEV and EV and high power ICs and modules for the industrial and consumer markets. Furthermore, we will continue to invest in next generation low- and mid-voltage MOSFETs to help maintain our number one position in the power MOSFET market.