All electric devices are built to operate with a certain type and amount of electrical energy, but this is often not the same type or amount of electrical energy that comes out of the outlet in your wall. Power converters modify electrical energy from the outlet to a usable current, voltage, and frequency for an electronic device. Power stations also use power converters on a larger scale to modify electrical energy so it can be efficiently transmitted. Today’s power converters are inefficient because they are based on decades-old technologies and rely on expensive, bulky, and failure-prone components. Within the next 20 years, 80% of the electricity used in the U.S. will flow through these devices, so there is a critical need to improve their efficiency.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Magnetic components are typically the largest components in a power converter. To date, however, researchers haven’t found an effective way to reduce their size without negatively impacting their performance. And, reducing the size of the converter’s other components isn’t usually an option because shrinking them can also diminish the effectiveness of the magnetic components. General Electric (GE) Global Research is developing smaller magnetic components for power converters that maintain high performance levels. The company is building smaller components with magnetic films. These films are created using the condensation of a vaporized form of the magnetic material. It’s a purely physical process that involves no chemical reactions, so the film composition is uniform. This process makes it possible to create a millimeter-thick film deposition over a wide surface area fairly quickly, which would save on manufacturing costs. In fact, GE can produce 1–10 millimeter-thick films in hours. The magnetic components that GE is developing for this project could be used in a variety of applications, including solar inverters, electric vehicles, and lighting.
If successful, GE would create smaller, lighter, more efficient power converters that could be used in a variety of applications.
This project could contribute to a smarter, more advanced, and more reliable power grid.
More efficient power converters could help reduce U.S. electricity consumption, and in turn reduce the harmful emissions created by power plants.
This project could help position the U.S. as a technical leader in high-performance magnetics.