APEC shows that power is (figuratively) hot

April 6, 2017 Rich Nass, Embedded Computing Brand Director

I attended the recent Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC) for the first time in many years. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. With all due respect, past events seemed like an endless display of power supplies and related components. But “power” has risen to a new level over past few years, no longer relegated to the “necessary evil” category. In fact, the advancements I saw moved clearly rose “exciting” category. But I have to be honest, if I heard one more vendor say, “we have the highest efficiency in the industry” I was going to scream. Check out the last week’s Embedded Insiders podcast for more on that topic.

For example, Power Integrations announced its HiperPFS-4 family of power-factor-correction (PFC) ICs. The family exhibits excellent performance characteristics at both full- and light-load conditions. HiperPFS-4 devices incorporate a 600-V MOSFET, suitable for 305-Vac input and a high efficiency, variable frequency, CCM PFC controller in a compact, electrically isolated, heat-sinkable package. HiperPFS-4 ICs achieve a high-power factor of above 0.95 and low THD even at 20% of rated load.


Helix Semiconductors showed a transformerless MuxCapacitor AC power IC. This one caught my attention in how it reduces the current in a power adapter to near zero when there’s no load attached. In other words, when you keep that cell phone adapter plugged into the wall without having the phone attached, this will virtually eliminate the power consumption. This is a pet peeve of mine, as I go around the house pulling these things from the wall. The two chip-set provides a parallel path to a high-power supply. It includes an intelligent capacitive power driver and a buck regulator. It automatically sources power through its path when load demand drops into the high-power supply’s inefficient range. And the current threshold at which switch-over occurs is user configurable.

If your need is to deliver power, you might want to check out the iHP series of configurable intelligent high power systems, from Artesyn Embedded Technologies, which is suited for medical and industrial applications. The modular power system provides accuracy, resolution and stability as either a programmable voltage or current source, and provides up to 24 kW in 3-kW increments. It can be configured for up to eight outputs using a various of plug-in modules that address a large range of voltages and currents.

In a discussion that took a few twists and turns, the folks from Arctic Sand showed me their latest family of LED drivers, the ARC3C family. The detours came thanks to some new ownership for Arctic. The company was recently acquired by Peregrine Semiconductor, a company that’s owned by Murata. Got that? The ARC3C is aimed at notebook computers, Ultrabooks, and 2-in-1 convertibles that take advantage of the latest ultra-high-definition (UHD) LCD displays.

According to Arctic Sand, the products deliver dramatic improvements in power conversion efficiency, while achieving a very small Z height profile and overall footprint. Rated at up to 10 W output power, the ARC3C products can save up to 1 W in the LED boost circuit.

Finally, Dialog Semiconductor unveiled an ultra-efficient (over 98%) power-management IC, aka PMIC, the DA9313. They claim that it’s the first 10A inductorless power converter with over 98 percent power efficiency, especially in applications like notebook PCs, DSLR cameras, and portable Bluetooth speakers.

The DA9313 can power more than 50 W in less than 10 mm2 of board area. For systems that require up to 100 W, two of the PMICs can be put into an integrated master-slave configuration. For smartphone direct-charging applications, the part can be used as a companion to the main charger IC. During the high-power constant current charging phase, the DA9313 bypasses the main charger and delivers 6 A to the battery.

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