Professor David Perreault
Power electronic circuits process and control electrical energy, and are critical elements in many kinds of systems. The rapid evolution of technology is generating a demand for power electronics whose capabilities greatly exceed what is presently achievable. Challenges of particular importance include miniaturization and integration of power electronics, and improving their cost and dynamic performance. Miniaturization is difficult in part because the magnetic components used in most power circuits scale down poorly in size. Likewise, achieving integration and low cost is difficult because of the diverse materials and assembly methods that are required for contemporary designs.
My research group is working to address these challenges through a combination of new technologies. One research focus is on the development of improved power passive components. Passive components such as inductors and capacitors often dominate the size and cost of power circuits, and limit their efficiency, noise attenuation, and transient performance. In one effort, we are developing means to improve the performance of passive filter components by compensating for their parasitics. These efforts have led to new integrated filter components with much better performance than conventional passives. Likewise, we are developing new types of power passive components that better scale to small sizes and high frequencies. Construction of these components using microfabrication techniques is also being explored, with the goal of enabling integrated fabrication of power converters.
A second research focus is the development of techniques to achieve greatly increased switching frequencies in power converters. Higher frequencies are desirable because they enable faster transient response and reduce passive component requirements. Moreover, at sufficiently high frequencies, batch fabrication of many circuit components may become possible, enabling higher levels of integration to be achieved. We are exploring new system architectures, circuit designs, and control methods that together enable substantial increases in operating frequency over the present state of the art. It is anticipated that the technologies under development will lead to miniaturized, highly integrated power electronics.
In addition to developing fundamental power conversion technologies, we are applying them in a variety of applications. Automotive power generation and control is one such area. For example, we have investigated the application of power electronics to enhance the efficiency, power, and transient performance of automotive alternators. We have also developed dc/dc converters and other power electronics for automotive applications, with the goal of enabling improved performance, safety, and comfort in vehicles. Other areas of interest include power components and circuits for industrial, commercial, consumer, and medical applications where improved size, efficiency, and performance are of importance.