Engineers at PowerSi Technologies have developed and patented a device that they claim will revolutionise energy conversion through the intelligent control of power semiconductor devices.
The company was recently founded by Dr Patrick Palmer, reader in electrical engineering, and two of his former PhD students, Dr Zhihan Wang and Dr Yalan Wang, from the electronics, power and energy conversion group of the department of engineering at Cambridge University.
Wang said that the company's Active Voltage Controller (AVC) was the most intelligent controller on the market and could reduce the total cost of a conversion system by 40 per cent, improve the efficiency by 10 per cent, and enhance its reliability.
In use, it drives and controls power semiconductor devices, including insulated-gate bipolar transistors (IGBTs) and metal-oxide-semiconductor field-effect transistors (MOSFETs) through the use of intelligent feedback control, enabling the devices switching performance characteristics to be user defined.
Initially, the company is targeting industrial converters found in renewable energy applications, including wind power, solar energy and hybrid vehicles. The total available market of controllers in these three sectors was worth $1.3bn (£0.9bn) in 2008, of which the company aims to take a 20 per cent slice within five years.
Demonstrator products are currently in production and expected to be adopted to control tens of IGBTs in series connection in a large-capacity static compensator in China, a project funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of China.