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Building the Power Electronics Cell

photo: Neus Montes cropped from Flickr

Juan Rivas-Davila, Electrical Engineering

A laptop charger and an electric vehicle charger perform a similar function—converting grid alternating current (AC) into the direct current (DC) needed to charge a battery—but these devices reuse very little technology between them. Such application specificity built into power electronics limits the penetration of technology and process advances, which are critical for both a clean grid and widespread electrified transportation. In the U.S., the total share of grid-generated electricity that is processed by power electronics is expected to grow to 80% by 2030, and power electronics largely determine the size, weight, stability, efficiency, and performance of electrified transportation systems. The specifications of commercially available chargers and inverters—especially with respect to power density, temperature operating range, and power output—limit the types and modes of transportation eligible for electrification. 

This project will develop the “power electronics cell”—a bidirectional AC-DC converter module that operates with switching frequencies over 10 MHz, thereby allowing fabrication of the entire cell using the internal layers of a printed circuit board. Additionally, this project will demonstrate a “pack” of these converter cells, which will combine multiple modules in series and parallel to produce a prototype charger-inverter at vehicle-relevant power levels in the tens of kilowatts.

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Awarded 2016