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EEE Based Power Electronics Projects

Power electronics is the application of solid-state electronics to the control and conversion of electric power. The first high power electronic devices were mercury-arc valves. In modern systems, the conversion is performed with semiconductor switching devices such as diodes, thyristors, and power transistors such as the power MOSFET and IGBT. In contrast to electronic systems concerned with transmission and processing of signals and data, in power electronics substantial amounts of electrical energy are processed. An AC/DC converter (rectifier) is the most typical power electronics device found in many consumer electronic devices, e.g. television sets, personal computers, battery chargers, etc. The power range is typically from tens of watts to several hundred watts. In industry a common application is the variable speed drive (VSD) that is used to control an induction motor. The power range of VSDs start from a few hundred watts and end at tens of megawatts. The capabilities and economy of power electronics system are determined by the active devices that are available. Their characteristics and limitations are a key element in the design of power electronics systems. Formerly, the mercury arc valve, the high-vacuum and gas-filled diode thermionic rectifiers, and triggered devices such as the thyratron and ignitron were widely used in power electronics. As the ratings of solid-state devices improved in both voltage and current-handling capacity, vacuum devices have been nearly entirely replaced by solid-state devices. Power electronic devices may be used as switches, or as amplifiers. An ideal switch is either open or closed and so dissipates no power; it withstands an applied voltage and passes no current, or passes any amount of current with no voltage drop. Semiconductor devices used as switches can approximate this ideal property and so most power electronic applications rely on switching devices on and off, which makes systems very efficient as very little power is wasted in the switch. By contrast, in the case of the amplifier, the current through the device varies continuously according to a controlled input. The voltage and current at the device terminals follow a load line, and the power dissipation inside the device is large compared with the power delivered to the load. Several attributes dictate how devices are used. Devices such as diodes conduct when a forward voltage is applied and have no external control of the start of conduction. Power devices such as silicon controlled rectifiers and thyristors (as well as the mercury valve and thyratron) allow control of the start of conduction, but rely on periodic reversal of current flow to turn them off. Devices such as gate turn-off thyristors, BJT and MOSFET transistors provide full switching control and can be turned on or off without regard to the current flow through them. Transistor devices also allow proportional amplification, but this is rarely used for systems rated more than a few hundred watts. The control input characteristics of a device also greatly affect design; sometimes the control input is at a very high voltage with respect to ground and must be driven by an isolated source. As efficiency is at a premium in a power electronic converter, the losses that a power electronic device generates should be as low as possible. Devices vary in switching speed. Some diodes and thyristors are suited for relatively slow speed and are useful for power frequency switching and control; certain thyristors are useful at a few kilohertz. Devices such as MOSFETS and BJTs can switch at tens of kilohertz up to a few megahertz in power applications, but with decreasing power levels. Vacuum tube devices dominate high power (hundreds of kilowatts) at very high frequency (hundreds or thousands of megahertz) applications. Faster switching devices minimize energy lost in the transitions from on to off and back, but may create problems with radiated electromagnetic interference. Gate drive (or equivalent) circuits must be designed to supply sufficient drive current to achieve the full switching speed possible with a device. A device without sufficient drive to switch rapidly may be destroyed by excess heating.

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