Smart power devices help electronic systems designers push the bounds of device size and efficiency

By John Keller

The growing use in aerospace and defense electronic systems of smart power management -- or digital monitoring, control, and communications in power supplies -- is enhancing the efforts of electronic systems designers not only to enhance power system health monitoring, but also is helping them push the bounds of power capacity and device efficiency, and shrink the size and weight of power-management devices.

Power electronics manufacturers today can take advantage of powerful and commercially available digital microprocessors to handle automatic power monitoring, control, and communications far more easily and efficiently than they could years ago when automated power control required the use of complex and expensive application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), explains Martin Schlecht, president and chief executive officer of SynQor Inc. in Boxborough, Mass.

"The digital power processor gave us the reality of an ASIC, but in less space and far fewer components, and we also no longer pay the price of customization," Schlecht says. With that readily available digital control for smart power electronics, power supply designers can enhance the capabilities of the power sections of their devices without adding size and weight.

"By devoting less room to the control circuit, more room can be devoted to the power circuit," Schlecht continues. "This helps us process more power, or process the same amount of power more efficiently. What digital control gives us is the ability to move toward smaller devices at lower power."

Increasing the efficiency in power management, as well as shrinking the sizes of power supplies and other power-management devices, are among the biggest pushes today in power management design, says Kai Johnstad, senior product marketing manager for defense, aerospace, and transportation products at Vicor Corp. in Andover, Mass.

"The big push in efficiency is in trying to get smaller and smaller power supplies, but with the power that users need," Johnstad says. "Smart power enables designers to maximize efficiency, and gives them greater ability to control the power system."

While digital interfaces in power devices have been available in one form or another for many years, today's power electronics often have the ability to monitor currents, voltages, temperatures, and outputs, and then report back to a system computer, points out Mike Innab, president of North American operations at Martek Power Abbott in Torrance, Calif.

"Digital control can let the computer know how the power supply is, and to make sure everything is okay, and to help determine if a failure is about to happen," Innab says. "If a thermal shutdown is about to happen, we can give a warning at five to ten degrees before shutdown occurs.

"With digital control, every single output is monitored," Innab continues. "In a critical application, the system monitor can see where it might be getting into trouble, before they actually get into trouble; with these new systems, they often can see it coming."

Digital control and communications also enables very fine changes in current to keep power within the bounds of sensitive equipment. "Smart power can sense voltage and raise or lower it to correct for errors," says SynQor's Schlecht. "That has to be quite fast. You have to do it in microseconds, which was too fast for microprocessors to that before now, but these new processors really are developed with circuitry to do these kinds of calculations very quickly."

One concern involves the military's typical need for sophisticated smart power technology. A quick power industry consensus is that military applications rarely need the most advanced smart power, except in specific applications like battery charging and system debugging.

"As far as the military goes, there are not that many advantages I see with digital control, except where the system is able to communicate with the power supply," Innab says. "One area I do see for smart power is battery chargers, where the algorithms to charge the batteries are quite complex. You can get more life out of batteries with smart power."

In these days of tight military budgets, defense systems designers also are concerned with system upgrades and technology insertion, in which smart power often is not a high priority. "There is a lot of retrofitting older vehicles and older airframes, and smart power is not as needed in those applications," says Vicor's Johnstad.

Company listing

Absopulse Electronics Ltd.; Ottawa, Ontario; 613-836-3511; www.absopulse.com

Aeroflex Inc.; Plainview , N.Y.; 516-694-6700; www.aeroflex.com

AJ's Power Source Inc.; Land O Lakes, Fla.; 813-996-2583; www.ajpower.com

Analytic Systems; Delta, British Columbia; 604-496-9981; http://analyticsystems.com

Astrodyne Inc.; Mansfield, Mass.; 08-964-6300; www.astrodyne.com

Behlman Electronics Inc.; Hauppauge, N.Y.; 631-435-0410; www.behlmanpower.com

Comdel Inc.; Gloucester, Mass.; 978-282-0620; www.comdel.com

CUI Inc.; Tualatin, Ore.; 503-612-2300; www.cui.com

DRS Pivotal Power; Bedford, Nova Scotia; 902-835-7268; www.drspowersolutions.com

Electromech Inc.; Ramsey, N.J.; 201-934-3456; http://electromechinc.com

Energy Technologies Inc.; Mansfield, Ohio; 419-522-4444; www.ruggedsystems.com

Falcon Electric Inc.; Irwindale, Calif.; 626-962-7770; www.falconups.com

Gaia Converter Inc.; Saint Laurent, Quebec; 514-333-3169; www.gaia-converter.ca

HiTek Power Ltd.; Littlehampton, England; 011-44-1903-712400; www.hitekpower.com

International Rectifier; El Segundo, Calif.; 310-726-8000; www.irf.com

Interpoint, a Crane Co.; Redmond, Wash.; 425-882-3100; www.interpoint.com

ITT Power Solutions; West Springfield, Mass.; 413-263-6200; www.ittpowersolutions.com

Kepco Inc.; Flushing, N.Y.; 718-461-7000; www.kepcopower.com

Martek Power Abbott; Torance, Calif.; 310-202-8820; www.martekpower.com

MS Kennedy Corp.; Liverpool, N.Y.; 315-701-6751; www.mskennedy.com

National Hybrid Inc.; Ronkonkoma, N.Y.; 631-981-2400; www.nationalhybrid.com

North Atlantic Industries; Bohemia, N.Y.; 631-567-1100; www.naii.com

Pduke Technology Inc.; Walnut, Calif.; 909-598-5000; www.pduke.com

Pico Electronics Inc.; Pelham, N.Y.; 914-738-1400 ; www.picoelectronics.com

Pioneer Magnetics; Santa Monica, Calif.; 310-829-6751; www.pioneermag.com

Power Solutions Inc.; Titusville, Fla.; 516-484-6689; www.powersolutions.com

Powerstax plc; Farnborough, England; +44 (0) 1252 407800,; www.powerstaxplc.com

Rantec Power Systems; Los Osos, Calif.; 805-596-6000 ; www.rantec.com

Schaefer Inc.; Ashland, Mass.; 508-881-7330; www.schaeferpower.com

Solitron Devices Inc.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; 561-848-4311; www.solitrondevices.com

SynQor; Boxborough, Mass.; 978-849-0600; www.synqor.com

TDK-Lambda; Neptune, N.J.; 732-922 9300; http://us.tdk-lambda.com/hp/

Teledyne Microelectronics; Los Angeles, Calif.; 310-822-8229; www.teledynemicro.com

Tracewell Systems; Westerville, Ohio; 614-846-6175; www.tracewellsystems.com

Transistor Devices Inc. (TDI Power); Hackettstown, N.J.; 908-850-5088; http://tdipower.com/

UltraVolt Inc.; Ronkonkoma, N.Y. ; 631-471-4444; www.ultravolt.com

Vicor Corp.; Andover, Mass.; 800-735-6200; www.vicr.com

Vishay Intertechnology Inc.; Malvern, Pa.; 610-644-1300; www.vishay.com

VPT Inc.; Blacksburg, Va.; 540-552-5000; www.vpt-inc.com

XP Power; Sunnyvale, Calif.; 408-732-7777; www.xppower.com

Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account.


The Innovation That Matters™ Quiz

Innovation is one of the key drivers in the Defense industry. View this short video of Leon Woo, VP of Engineering at Mercury Systems, on the role of innovation. Then, answer 3 simple questions correctly to be entered into a drawing to win an Eddie Bauer fleece jacket!

CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR TWO MOST RECENT WINNERS. "Nick from SPARWAR" and "Bridget from AOC."


Military & Aerospace Photos

Related Products

28V, 32-Channel, Light-Weight SSPC

The RP-2032151XD0 Solid State Power Controller (SSPC) is a light-weight 3 pound compact module th...

PD150 Series

150Watt DC/DC converters, chasis mounting with terminal block.

MDRA series of DIN Rail AC/DC to 960W

AC/DC Din Rail mountable power supplies, universal input, optional 3 phase AC Input 340-575VAC, h...

Related Companies

Raycom Electronics

Raycom Electronics, Inc., a subsidiary of Electro Technik Industries (ETI), was incorporated in 1965.  The compa...

Crane Aerospace & Electronics

When failure is NOT an option...rely on Crane Aerospace & Electronics. We supply high-density, high-reliability c...

Vicor Corp

Designs, manufactures and markets modular, high-density power components as well as configurable power systems, and c...
Wire News provided by   

Most Popular Articles

Webcasts

Meeting the Gen3 backplane challenge with OpenVPX and COTS

Tight Pentagon budgets mean military systems must stay in the field for longer than ever before. This doesn't mean obsolete technology, however. Today's military electronics are being upgraded constantly, an...
Sponsored by:

Digital signal processing for signals intelligence and electronic warfare

Military & Aerospace Electronics presents an expert Webcast on the design considerations for blending general-purposes processors (GPUs), general-purpose graphics processors (GPGPUs), field-programmable ...
Sponsored by:

Advantages of Intel Architecture Products and Wind River Solutions in Military & Aerospace Applications

This webinar explains the individual advantages of the Intel Architecture hardware, available for long-life supply, and the WRS software portfolio.  There are extraordinary advantages of combining such ...
Sponsored by:

social activity

All Access Sponsors


Mil & Aero Magazine

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE