Algorithm optimises film capacitor size in switching power supplies

May 08, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
KIT algorithm optimises film capacitor size in switching power supplies
Researchers at the Light Technology Institute (LTI) at KIT in Germany have developed a digital control method that allows film capacitors, rather than electrolytic, to be used in switching power supplies with only a slight increase in space requirements.

Film capacitors are signifcantly more reliable but take up more space, sometimes 10 times that of electrolytic capacitors. The control algorithm, which runs on a microprocessor built into the power supply unit, detects disturbing environmental influences so that, for example, higher voltage fluctuations can be compensated. The higher control bandwidth enables storage capacitors with lower capacitance to be used sufficiently; the error-prone electrolytic capacitors can be dispensed with. Depending on the design, this can triple the operating time, a great advantage especially in places where maximum reliability is required, such as in aviation, electric cars or industrial applications.

This technology has only become possible with the spread of very powerful microprocessors, says Michael Heidinger of the LTI. "The digitalization of power supplies can be compared with the technological leap from analog to digital photography. The technology brings further advantages of digitization, such as the ability to perform remote maintenance and the associated integration into the Internet of Things.

The researchers are now looking for industrial partners to commercialize their approach.

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