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Resonant Voltage Regulator Architecture

Empower Semiconductor

Resonant Voltage Regulator Architecture Eliminates 30-50% Energy Consumption of Digital ICs

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$985,978
Location: 
Palos Verdes Estates, CA
Project Term: 
02/28/2018 to 02/27/2020
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Electricity generation currently accounts for ~40% of primary energy consumption in the U.S. and continues to be the fastest growing form of end-use energy. Power electronics condition, control, and convert electrical power in order to provide optimal conditions for transmission, distribution, and load-side consumption. Most of today's power electronics have limitations to their performance, temperature resilience, and size due to the circuit topology and semiconductor power devices used. Emerging semiconductor devices such as those based on wide-bandgap materials -- along with transformative advances in circuit design and system architecture -- present opportunities to dramatically improve power converter performance while reducing size and weight. Development of advanced power electronics with unprecedented functionality, efficiency, reliability, and form factor will help provide the U.S. a critical technological advantage in an increasingly electrified world economy.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

Empower Semiconductor will develop a new architecture for regulating voltage in integrated circuits (IC) like computer microprocessors. Empower's design will enable faster & more accurate power delivery than today's power management hardware. As transistors continue to shrink, the number of transistors per chip has increased, resulting in increased computing power. Existing Voltage Regulator ICs (VRICs) have not kept pace and deliver excessive (and wasted) power to these advanced digital ICs. The team has proposed a new resonant voltage regulator architecture based on silicon technology that can power digital ICs with 5x improved voltage regulation and 1,000x faster transient response. The increased regulation serves to eliminate excess voltage, which translates to significant energy savings. The dramatic increase in transient response enables dynamic voltage scaling which allows the digital IC to reduce its voltage within a few cycles when its full operation & voltage is not needed, thereby further conserving energy. If successful, these improvements in speed and accuracy translate to up to 50% reduction in energy consumption for a digital IC, while enabling a much smaller form factor and lower costs.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, CIRCUITS projects will enable further development of a new class of power converters suitable for a broad range of applications including motor drives for heavy equipment and consumer appliances, electric vehicle battery charging, high-performance computer data centers, grid applications for stability and resilience, and emerging electric propulsion systems.

Security: 

More robust power electronics that withstand higher operating temperatures, have increased durability, a smaller form factor, and higher efficiency will significantly improve the reliability and security of a resilient electrical grid.

Environment: 

Low cost and highly efficient power electronics could lead to more affordable electric and hybrid-electric transportation, greater integration of renewable power sources, and higher efficiency electric motors for use in heavy industries and consumer applications.

Economy: 

Electricity is the fastest growing form of end-use energy in the United States. High performance, low cost power electronics would enable significant efficiency gains across the economy, reducing energy costs for businesses and families.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Isik Kizilyalli
Project Contact: 
David Lidsky
Release Date: 
8/23/2017