By Vicor Nicolas Richard, Lev Slutskiy, Teo DeLellis and Henryk Dabrowski

Changed habits and redefined priorities due to the pandemic have driven innovation to accelerate. Vicor’s experts cite examples of existing trends that will significantly accelerate and focus on the use and development of efficient, compact, modular Power Delivery Networks (PDNs).

Automotive – The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to electric vehicles and 48V systems, according to Nicolas Richard, Director of Automotive Business Development, EMEA, Vicor

Transportation is one of the sectors hardest hit by the global pandemic. Fewer people commute by bus and travel long distances, and the auto industry has seen a rapid decline in sales, which is forecast to continue into 2021. Manufacturers have responded by focusing more on growing market segments, especially electric vehicles. While reducing the development of traditional vehicles, they are increasing the development of electric vehicles with competitive technology. Fewer people commute to get off work by bus, and surveys show that people think driving by themselves is much safer than taking a bus. So, we think this will accelerate the demand for cost-effective electric vehicles, so with more and more investment in electric vehicles, the trend of 48V PDN replacing 12V PDN will accelerate significantly.

In 2021, more 48V battery systems will appear, especially in mild-hybrid vehicles, as manufacturers add active-guided suspension systems, rear-wheel steering or anti-roll stabilization systems. To support this trend, more 48V systems will need to be converted to 12V to support automotive safety, comfort, infotainment and navigation systems. In addition to enabling lighter cables or higher power, HEV and EV medium and high voltage batteries will have higher conversion efficiency when increasing the voltage to 48V to reduce the required step-down. In addition, the main battery voltage used to power EVs and HEVs will also increase, and 800V will become more common to shorten charging times. These changes require a new type of power component to build the power distribution network for the cars of the future.

With the deployment of 400V and 800V charging stations, vehicle-to-charging station compatibility requires simple and efficient conversion between these two voltages. Housed in a 63 x 23 mm CM-ChiP package, the NBM6123 provides 6kW of 400V and 800V fixed-ratio conversion, enabling a high-efficiency, high-density, scalable solution for battery and charging station compatibility. The bidirectional capability of the NBM6123 allows the use of the same module to perform buck-boost conversion. In addition, the NBM6123 can be used to provide 400V power to air conditioners and in-vehicle electronics during 800V charging, minimizing cell balancing circuits.

The new 48V power supply network needs to support the power traditional 12V loads, new drivers, steering and brake-by-wire high-power systems. As the load increases, delivering greater power at 48V requires high-density modules rather than more bulky discrete solutions. Vicor offers several modules for 48V supply. These devices include fixed ratio and regulated converter solutions supporting 48V and 12V loads. These converters can be deployed in a single enclosure or throughout the vehicle using a smaller, lighter 48V power distribution network. The DCM and PRM modules provide 48V to 12V regulated output and 48V to 48V regulated output, respectively. NBM provides 48V to 12V or 12V to 48V bidirectional fixed ratio conversion.

High Performance Computing – Vicor Regional Manager Lev Slutskiy predicts that data center capacity needs will outstrip physical equipment space.

Data centers are already growing rapidly, but the pandemic has accelerated data center demand beyond previous forecasts and will continue to grow long-term even after the coronavirus subsides. More and more people are working from home, more and more students are taking lessons from home, and more and more people are watching videos and playing online games due to fewer leisure time options outside the home. We have seen how much users rely on the data center urban backbone that supports the current telecommunications infrastructure. The quest for higher power efficiency in data centers will accelerate in 2021, and we believe the data center industry will purchase more renewable energy than in previous years, but we expect more data centers to be addressed from alternating current (AC) infrastructure. The scenario shifts to direct current (DC) to better cope with the massive increase in power demand for high-performance computing.

This rapid and unexpected acceleration in demand exceeds the ability of manufacturers to expand the physical capacity of the data center; as a result, data center operators need to add more capacity to the existing rack space. This has a big impact on the power supply. Being able to power more efficiently within the same rack space with excellent thermal management is more important than ever. Artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and big data are all driving the need for higher processing power, resulting in higher energy consumption and higher currents, which in turn lead to higher power losses due to power conversion and transformation processes. The third major transformative aspect of data center power innovation will be power supply and power efficiency at the rack and rack level to achieve the higher computing power (tens of billions of FLOPS) required to enable cloud computing, artificial intelligence and big data applications .

A more efficient way to manage power is to boost the voltage within these systems and use DC after AC rectification or use directly from a renewable energy source. The task of converting high voltage (usually 260 – 410V DC) to the value used by modern computing unit inputs (12V or better 48V) can be performed by a bus converter. We believe that system designers will use more innovative architectural solutions such as factored power architectures (FPAs) and high-efficiency converter modules to shorten the distance between high-current power supply modules and point-of-load (PoL), In order to reduce PDN resistance in future supercomputing applications to minimize power consumption. Several large manufacturers of high-performance computing (HPC) products, such as Nvidia, which recently ranked #1, #3, #4, and #5 on the Green 500, have actually taken this approach to moving data centers from Greener inside and out.

Figure 2: Factorized power regulation and transformation stages

Figure 3: Vicor-DCM5614-VIA

Robots – Henryk Dabrowski, vice president of sales for Vicor EMEA, predicts that European drones and robots will be seen 747 million times in public in 2021.

By the end of 2021, every man, woman and child in Europe will see a delivery robot or drone delivering packages or sanitizing public spaces at least once as part of our fight against the pandemic. In addition, robotics will see a significant acceleration in innovation as companies look to robots to safely engage with customers and perform tasks without exposing humans to the coronavirus. To meet demand, robot developers need to take existing designs and treat them as platforms, rather than trying to develop new robots from scratch. To expand the platform, it is necessary to expand the power supply to meet the needs of robots of different sizes and functions. A scalable, modular approach to power supply is key to meeting this challenge.

A key factor in expanding the scope of automated delivery services is the reach and weight of the robot or drone. Not only does Vicor help designers reduce the weight of their drones and achieve high performance, but it also helps them manage power in a way that enables them to fly farther more reliably. We predict that there will be far more robots than drones in Europe’s more densely populated cities, and more drones to help respond to crises and deliver critical medical supplies in more remote areas such as the Alps. The delivery of heavier cargo will be supported by self-driving trucks. In Europe, where Tesco, Amazon, DHL and UPS have all started experimenting with drone deliveries, we see the recent outbreak as a turning point in the push towards a full digital transformation of retail. People have become accustomed to the convenience of home delivery during the lockdown, which means that foot traffic to a favorite store or supermarket in person will not return to pre-pandemic levels. Using robots for delivery on the street and drones for delivery in the air will help retailers significantly reduce delivery costs. In China, drones are already being used to deliver goods to remote areas, and we’re seeing an acceleration of this development as logistics companies can obtain permission from the country’s air transport authority to provide retail air freight services via drones.

Figure 2: ZVS Buck Solution

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