Digital Power Conversion: Moving Towards Intelligent Power Management and Smart Grids

Evolution of Digital Power Conversion

Power conversion has been an analog process from the beginning, with innovation and developments of better methods and processes to make electronics energy efficient. Advent of technology has made analog power conversion give way to digital power conversion, which is being seen as more energy efficient and generally advantageous.

Digital power conversion can be understood as either an analog-based control loop with a digital interface with added digital power functionality or alternatively as a fully digital control loop. While digital control systems were first introduced in the 70s, fully digital controllers were built only at the end of 90s with the availability of low-cost microcontrollers and digital signal processors (DSP). Some of the more common applications of digital power conversion include motor drives and converters for high power applications.

Advantages of Digital Power Conversion over Analog

Digital systems offer several advantages such as ease of implementing sophisticated algorithms, dynamic performance and efficiency of power. They can also be easily reconfigured and scaled, compared to analog systems, making them an increasingly popular option.

One of the biggest advantages of digital power conversion over its more popular analog power is its impact on robustness of the system. The robustness of a system is a complex feature, with many aspects changed or modified in both analog and digital systems to enhance it, depending on where it is being used and how it is implemented. The advantage of a digital power system includes customized responses that are not possible in an analogue system. And because digital interfaces can provide diagnostic and reporting information, it is more likely to aid in preventing hard system outages as well.

Designing with digital power provides the distinct advantage of intelligent power management. This is achieved because Digital power ICs communicate with each other via the System Management Bus, which offers flexibility and control over sequencing synchronizing that is simply unavailable when analog power systems are used. And because these values for voltage and temperature and thresholds can be adjusted more than once, it provides multiple methods of reaction, which enhances the system performance. And because digital systems are comprised of fewer components, they are expected to have a longer lifespan and greater reliability as well.

Digital Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Easier to Make

The fundamental difference in digital and analog power conversion is that the former uses software for control systems in the basic design, while the latter does not. With digital power conversion, while the process is run by a software, the designer of these systems must have a full understanding of the control systems and the compensator used to be able to modify it, if required.

There is a marked difference however in the amount of control exerted, based on whether they are digital or analogue and the advantage of a digital system is that it allows for better control on the various aspects of the conversion system.

The Current Scenario

Improvements in electronic communication technology have led to the creation of a smart grid, a network of connected utilities for economically efficient, sustainable power system. According to the European Union Commission Task Force for Smart Grids, it can be defined as an electricity network that can cost efficiently integrate the behavior and actions of all users connected to it. Smart grids allow for intelligent monitoring, control, communication, and self-healing technologies, to increase the efficiency of the existing services. This includes the use of smart meters to measure how much energy is being utilized, and communicate the same to the grid so monitoring can be done in real time

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