EPC and Microchip Produce a 300W, 1/16th Brick DC-DC Converter for Data CentersJuly 27, 2020 by Antonio Anzaldua Jr.
Efficient Power Conversion (EPC) and Microchip have partnered to develop a 300W, 48-12V DC-DC converter demonstration board that was designed for heavily trafficked data centers.
EPC has been developing power-efficient devices that have revolved around gallium nitride (GaN) solutions. EPC’s mission is to surpass the usage of silicon by providing new technology that will improve wireless power, autonomous vehicles, satellites, and high-density data centers. Earlier this month, EPC announced their partnership with Microchip Technology, a leading provider in secure embedded control solutions.
EPC’s EPC9143 features fault protection, thermal management, and discrete GaN drivers for fast switching. Image used courtesy of EPC.
EPC is able to bring a new device to the world of high-speed data centers with the EPC9143 which incorporates Microchip’s dsPIC33CK digital signal controller and EPC older model, the EPC2053.
EPC’s EPC2053 Featuring eGaN Technology
The EPC2053 is able to reduce the overall size of the converter and its conduction loss. Discrete GaN-specific gate drivers allow for fast switching, 30% peak-to-average current ripple. The benefits of utilizing GaN FETs is the cost is significantly less than silicon-based MOSFETs, the footprint size would nearly double, and the GaN FETs increase the maximum load current over standard MOSFET designs.
The latest of 100V GaN devices increase the efficiency, small footprint, and reduced system cost for 48V power conversion. Image used courtesy of EPC.
Microchip’s Digital Signal Controller
Microchip’s dsPIC33CK is used to drive and control the converter digitally. The feedback loops are implemented and executed, mitigating control loop execution from analog circuits to embedded software enhances the flexibility, allowing designers to modify control signals during runtime. This results in digital control, giving the user the ability to tailor the behavior of the converter to application-specific requirements without the need for modifications at the hardware level.
Microchip’s digital signal controller enables the design of digital power, motor control, and robust applications. Image used courtesy of Microchip.
Teaming Up to Address High-Density Computing and Data Centers
The amount of data transferred through datacenters is increasing due to continued growth in mobile traffic. This forces datacenters to operate with low power consumption, the way is to have efficient power modules operating from 12V to 1V. Data centers operate through a 48V DC bus and brick converters are needed to bring the voltage down to the onboard IC level. The converters need to have thermal control, small footprint, low cost, and low power consumption.
The combination of Microchip’s digital signal controller with efficient eGaN FETs provided by EPC enables the new EPC9143, a 300W DC-DC voltage regulator that is in a 1/16th brick size. The main reason for using brick converters has been because of its high power density and robust design. The brick converter provides a high-density 48V to 12V point-of-load (POL) modules, where a regulated 12V output voltage is required, like those used for commodity PCIe cards and storage.
The converter is able to achieve 96% power-efficiency in a 48V input to 12V output conversion at 25A. The switching frequency of 500 kHz enables the 300 W in the very small 16th brick format which is just 33 mm x 22.9 mm (1.3 x 0.9 in). Additional phases can be added to this scalable 2-phase design to further increase power.
A simplified schematic diagram of EPC’s 300W, 1/16th brick converter. Image used courtesy of EPC.
In an EPC news release, Alex Lidow, the CEO of EPC stated, “Advanced computing applications are putting higher demands on power converters, and silicon-based power conversion is not keeping pace.”
Lidow also expressed his excitement about the new partnership with Microchip, “We are delighted to work with Microchip, a leader in this space, to provide customers with a flexible solution to increase the efficiency, increase power density, and reduce system cost for 48 V power conversion.”
The flexibility of the Microchip digital controllers allows the input voltage to be adjusted from 8 V – 72 V and the output voltage from 3.3 V – 25 V. Combine that with EPC’s eGaN FETs allows for the device to have fast switching, small size, and low cost that can meet the stringent power density requirements.
This is most likely one of many devices that will emerge from this partnership since both companies are dedicated to providing quality embedded solutions that will help the demanding data and high computing markets.