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A novel idea for extremely small power electronic systems

  • A novel idea for extremely small power electronic systems

Representative Image. Credit: GaN Group @ IISc Bangalore

Mayank Shrivastava, an Assistant Professor at the Indian Institute of Science, has come-up with a novel scheme for making power electronic systems significantly smaller. His invention, which brings different power electronic components onto a nano sized chip, can potentially create new possibilities in the consumer electronic industry.

Power electronic systems are the indispensable circuits found in every electronic device we use. In all devices, from the ubiquitous mobile phones to the futuristic electric cars, they do the same function: control and convert electric power. Though many other electronic circuits have shrunk quite a bit, power electronic systems have defied the trend. Shrivastava's novel scheme has the potential to shrink these systems, finally.

Shrivastava feels that his invention will finally give better electronics to the consumer. “From a consumer point of view, the proposed scheme would reduce cost, size and weight of several power electronic systems, electrical appliances and electronic gadgets. Moreover, the batteries of wireless devices would last longer and gadgets will not heat-up significantly”, he says.

The thought for this invention was triggered by the Little Box Challenge, an international challenge to demonstrate smallest power electronic system. Shrivastava said, “Though this challenge had different requirements and I started thinking in this direction not because of the international challenge. However, an instant thought that something nonconventional and out of the box needs to be done, to deliver higher power in small size and with efficiency, led to this invention”.

He has used state of the art methods in different branches of nano-electronics, material technology and 3D integration, which can ultimately deliver better, cheaper, and more versatile electronic goods to the consumer.

His scheme to shrink the power electronic systems relies on recent technological developments like the wide bandgap power transistors, 3D integration, super capacitors, super inductors, graphene and carbon nano tubes. He has patented his invention, which can potentially influence a multi-billion dollar industry.

The power electronic system consists of different sub-systems which perform different tasks. So, to shrink the whole system, Shrivastava had to find ways to shrink the sub-systems first, which required considerable expertise in both nanotechnology as well as power fields. He proposed the tiny, yet super-fast III-Nitride high electron mobility power transistor together with advance nanomaterials like graphene, CNT and TMDs, instead of the metal oxide field effect transistor, which ruled the electric industry for decades. As he notes, we are approaching “theoretical limits” limits of the field effect transistors, and there is a need to look beyond them.

One more interesting aspect of the invention is the use of 3D integration. Typically, in most of the electronic circuits, the components are connected side by side. In three dimensional integration, components are connected one above the other too. This integration scheme helps make electronic systems smaller, just as apartment blocks help save space in cities.

Of course, considerable funding is required to develop this idea into a working prototype. Shrivastava thinks that it would be a fruitful investment. “Beyond 2020, the global market for low and medium power range power electronic products would exceed US$ 100 Billion (` 6.5 Lakhs Crore). Investments needed are minuscule compared to the business potential”, he says. He believes that, with appropriate funding, the prototype can be developed within 4-5 years and the technology can be made ready for commercialization in another 3 years. These are timelines very much aligned with market projections and a minuscule investment compared to its business potential.

Contact: Mayank Shrivastava is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Electronic Systems Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.


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