LONDON – The merger of digital control and power is coming of age in the era of energy efficiency. Three companies founded between 2000 and 2010 are amongst those showing the way.
Going back 40 years it used to be that the electrical industry, essentially electricity distribution, was the big, old-fashioned sector and electronics – particularly digital silicon semiconductor electronics applied to information technology – was the young upstart.
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Now the semiconductor market has plateaued at an annual size of $300 billion and a number of the familiar chip giants have disappeared or are hard-pressed or having to restructure. One contributory factor is that much of the semiconductor industry was built over the previous 40 years on a culture of functional performance first and with only secondary regard to power consumption.
As we all know we have entered an environmentally aware era.
So now electronics is the slow-moving behemoth and the startups come in the area of energy efficiency.
Powervation Ltd. (Cork, Ireland) is one such company. It is a 2006 startup that sells adaptive power control ICs and firmware to improve the efficiency of power supplies and conversion modules. The company has announced that CUI Inc. has selected its PV3012 digital controller for use in two of its product families. Powervation was backed by Intel Capital amongst others in its early venture capital rounds.
Both power module product families deliver adaptive self-compensation through the use of Powervation's Auto-Control technology. Auto-Control automatically and dynamically balances the trade-off between performance and system stability in real time and compensates for changes in the converter's output impedance, which could be due to component aging, manufacturing variances, and temperature, under a wide variety of potential loads.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.