Power system helps rebuild coral reef

May 19, 2020 //By Nick Flaherty
Vicor is using its DC-DC converter technology for a system that can rebuild a coral reef
Vicor's DC-DC converter technology is used for a system that can rebuild a coral reef using renewable power.

A novel DC-DC converter power delivery system is helping to restore coral reef systems to protect coastal environments

Vicor is working with CCell Renewables on a system that helps to rebuild coral reef systems around the world. Over 70 per cent of the world's coastlines are eroding, putting 200m people worldwide at risk. CCell is currently preparing to create a new reef in Mexico that will be 200m in length to protect the shoreline.

The reef growing system is based on the electrolysis of seawater to deposit calcium carbonate on large steel frames which function as anodes and cathodes to give the new reef its early structure.

Instead of taking hundreds of years, the new system takes just five years to produce incredibly strong limestone rock on which coral can grow. CCell also uses renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and wave energy to power the reef growing systems.

All of these renewable power sources have widely varying output voltages due to environmental conditions which creates a major problem for the electrolysis process. The limestone structure on which coral grows must be grown at an optimum rate, without impurities and with a strong molecular structure. The electrolysis process must be precise or nothing will grow, or the limestone will not support the coral growth. The power delivery network must therefore have a high degree of control, accuracy and be able to operate over wide ranging and challenging conditions.

The voltage needs to be tightly regulated between 1.2V and 4V to drive a precisely calculated current through the seawater, even though the input voltage varies substantially, so Vicor used its Factorized Power Architecture (FPA). 

This splits the DC-DC converter function into two modules, a pre-regulation module (PRM) regulator and a voltage transformation module (VTM) that acts as a current multiplier. This allows the power delivery network to be optimized for both regulation and conversion.

Next: FPA powers coral reef system

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