Power Converter Makers Exhibit At Semicon West

July 17, 2008 by Jeff Shepard

Power supply makers were well represented at this year’s Semicon West exhibition in San Francisco. Some companies, including VI Chip, Kepco, and Matsusada Precision, were offering power converters for use in various testing applications. In addition, numerous inverter makers, including TerraWatt Power, Out Back Power Systems, Advanced Energy and SatCon Power Systems were taking advantage of the show’s expansion this year into the area of photovoltaics (PV).

VI Chip, a Vicor company, targeted the semiconductor ATE market, where power integrity and fast transient response are needed. The company’s "Voltage Transformation Module" achieves a response time of less than 1µs and delivers up to 100A in a volume of less than 0.290in³ (345A/in³) with a typical efficiency of 89%. It may be paralleled to deliver higher power levels and features a selectable output voltage.

Matsusada Precision, a maker of high-voltage power supplies for various applications, recently expanded its product offering to include precision X-ray non-destructive test equipment specially designed for testing Li-ion batteries. The company’s uB1600 Digital X-ray Microscope features a high-definition imaging system with various image processing and measurement functions.

PV was a new focus for Semicon West this year. The trade show included dozens of solar cell makers, PV system companies, and inverter makers. Kepco targeted the testing needs of solar cell and PV system makers with its BOP 1kW four-quadrant sink-source power supply. Kepco’s BOP system can be used to simulate actual solar cell operating conditions and provide a realistic and thorough testing and performance measurement.

Among the PV inverter makers showing new products at the show, both TerraWatt and Out Back targeted the lower-power end of the PV market. TerraWatt’s ecoJoule 2500 handles up to 2.5kW of power while the FLEXmax60 from Out Back is rated for up to 3kW. Both units include maximum power point tracking (MPPT) capabilities. TerraWatt’s ecoJoule includes an internal transfer switch and is a fully-grid-interactive inverter, but is also capable of operating off-grid without a battery pack.

Out Back’s FLEXmax60 is a charge controller and includes equalization charging, battery temperature compensation, voltage regulation set points and other features specifically designed to optimize the performance of storage batteries in PV installations.

Advanced Energy, well-known for its high-voltage and high-frequency RF power supplies, recently entered the PV inverter market. The company was showing the AE® Solaron™ 333kW PV inverter, a transformerless, grid-tie inverter. With its robust, bipolar architecture and patented, soft-switching technology, the Solaron inverter achieves breakthrough 97% CEC efficiency and is NRTL-certified to UL 1741.

SatCon was showing their 500kW PowerGate Plus PV inverter. These inverters include a number of features targeted at commercial installations including: both ac and dc switchgear to disconnect the inverter at night (minimizing standby losses), MPPT capabilities, intelligent wake-up, and so on. In addition to showing the 500kW unit, SatCon was pre-announcing the pending introduction of a 1-MW unit scheduled for later in 2008.