Power Electronic Systems

Power electronic systems, as opposed to simply power supplies, widen the scope of energy conversion and control. In Experiment 4 you learned about the fundamentals of converting AC to DC using two forms of rectification - half wave and full wave. While certainly interesting, it is just the beginning as far as learning about power supply design and power electronic systems. This section will help you to fill in the gaps.

In the Preface we said that power electronics would be the dominant electronic technology for the beginning of the 21st Century. Apparently at least one prominent University agrees with this assessment. According to an excerpt from the Rensselaer Polytechnic University (Troy, NY) web site

Estimates indicate that as much as 80% of all electric energy may be electronically processed within the next decade. Such rapid proliferation of power-electronic systems makes it imperative for power engineers to understand the principles by which power-electronic converters are designed and operated, and the implications of the converters on the source and load systems. We are currently engaged in the design and development of power-electronic systems and their control with application to electrical machinery, power system control, lighting, and power-quality improvement. [http://www.rpi.edu/]

The key words in this paragraph occur in the first sentence - "electronically processed" -, which implies that control, or more precisely "micro-control", will be responsible for 80% of all electricity that is generated by power plants and converted by power supplies, inverters, motor controllers, etc. No longer do engineers "design blind" by leaving out the most prolific and powerful component available; the microcontroller. Microcontrollers like the BASIC Stamp are now being used in nearly every electronic design, and especially in power electronic systems. The reason is simple. A microcontroller can monitor and control the operations of power systems as well as gather and store (log) data and output the data using a conventional RS-232 serial port. Knowing that microcontrollers can do all this puts you ahead of many other seasoned engineers who still attempt to resist the incursion of these devices into their designs. So consider yourself fortunate in so far as you are on the cutting edge of a new revolution in power electronic systems; that is, power systems that have "brains" courtesy of the microcontroller you are studying in this course.

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