As the number of electronic devices people use every day grows, higher-yield, more compact power converters will be needed more than ever. In research conducted for a Carnot Energie du Futur project called Nice GaN, CEA-Liten developed software that can rapidly dimension the magnetic components inside power converters.
Making high-power systems like electric vehicles compact is a major technical challenge due to the fact that these systems usually require bulky transformers. New wide bandgap power electronic components, which can operate at high frequencies, could help reduce the size of the converters necessary for adjusting the voltage coming off the grid to the needs of the system. Devices made from semiconductor materials like GaN could make inroads into this market if costs can be brought down.
CEA-Liten and CEA-Leti are working together to support the development of this technology. They are totally rethinking transformers to take full advantage of the technology’s miniaturization potential and to ensure that all magnetic components can operate at high frequencies and limit losses. They developed software that can take a set of target-system specifications (with the required electrical characteristics and the space available for the passive component) and rapidly dimension the ideal component. From material and geometry to fabrication processes, every aspect of the component is addressed. But that’s not all. The software can also recommend more compact, efficient geometries by adding heat sinks, larger heat-exchange surfaces, and magnetic functions.
The researchers are drawing on their unique know-how in the injection molding and 3D printing of magnetic materials to prototype new converters. The software is being rolled out for use in the lab initially and will gradually be made available to other departments and, later, externally through an open source model.
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.