Market Insights

Youthful Power Electronics

December 01, 2014 by Braham Ferreira

Computer Engineering is 60 years old. Power Systems and Telecommunications are even older. Forthcoming out of these disciplines the original electrical

Computer Engineering is 60 years old. Power Systems and Telecommunications are even older. Forthcoming out of these disciplines the original electrical engineering societies were founded 130 years ago, including the VDE in Germany, IEE in the United Kingdom and the AIEE in the USA. Power Electronics is comparatively young. Despite the fact that power electronics started with the development of the mercury arc rectifier that was invented by Peter Cooper Hewitt in 1902, it only recently emerged as a discipline that can stand on its own feet. This was triggered by the spurt in technology development of power semiconductor devices that occurred in the early eighties. Power MOSFETs, Schottky diodes, GTOs and IGBTs made it possible to build reliable, efficient and affordable converters for many applications and ever improving micro-computers made it possible do advanced real-time digital control of electrical machines. By the end of the eighties power electronics emerged as a distinct discipline with its own journals and conferences. Last year the IEEE Power Electronics Society celebrated its 25th anniversary and this year the European Power Electronics Association became 25 years old.

For the next two years it will be my privilege to serve as President of IEEE PELS, taking over the reins to steer the professional society during a period when many exiting things are happening in the development and application of power electronics. It is a great honour to become the second European in the history of the Power Electronic Society to take up this position. I look forward to strengthen the collaboration between PELS and European institutions such as the EPE Association and ECPE when my term that starts on 1 January 2015.


Acronym puzzle

The last four years I have been closely involved with conferences and it intrigued me how challenging it can be to come up with an acronym for an event or organisation that is unique and does not twist the tongue. Power electronics related acronyms generally make use of a set of seven letters, “A”,”C”,”E”,”I”,”M”,”P” and “S” and the acronyms have a special ring about them if you say it loudly. Have you once seen the puzzlement on the face of a friend or a colleague that is not an engineer when you tell him to which conference you are going? You can see the question in their eyes; “Where do these nerdy names come from?”

The largest common denominator is “PE”, standing for power electronics, and is present in almost all acronyms: EPE, ECPE, PEMC, PESC, SPEC, APEC, PEAC, PEDES, ICPE, IPEC and IPEMC. The PELS global conference and European acronyms have two “E”s; ECCE, EPE, ECPE while PCIM is the outlier as the only conference that does not have an “E” in its name. Asian conferences all start with an “I” which stands for international: ICPE, IPEC and IPEMC. “A” stands for application and the two conferences, one in the US and the other in China use the same letters in a different sequence: APEC, PEAC. The meaning of “S” is the most inconsistent because in PESC it means specialist, in SPEC it indicates Southern and in PEDES it means system.


About the Author Braham Ferreira received the B.Sc.Eng., M.Sc.Eng., and Ph.D. degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Rand Afrikaans University, Johannesburg, South Africa in 1981, 1983 and 1988 respectively.


This article originally appeared in the Bodo’s Power Systems magazine.