Tuesday, May 13, 2008

power electronics continue their path to free

one of my assumptions when thinking about what electrical power systems will look like in the future is that power electronics will eventually be essentially free. i don't know what magic of chemistry will make it possible, but i am confident that it will happen.

recently, a doctoral student's work has reinforced the likely validity of this assumption by announcing significant advances in the development of a power electronic device using a fundamentally different chemistry from the devices currently in use.

essentially, what this means is that high power electronic devices (such as hybrid cars, dc-ac inverters, ac-dc rectifiers, power supplies, etc) will become lower cost and higher performance. eventually, i expect we'll see power electronic devices used even in the utility industry. maybe we'll use ac-dc-ac converters on poles instead of transformers because of their ability to provide perfect voltage and frequency output even when the high voltage side is experiencing problems. maybe we'll even see the huge high voltage substation transformers replaced with their electronic equivalent capable of virtually eliminating the common causes of large outages. it is also probably just a matter of time before even large high voltage breakers are replaced with solid state devices.

back in the real world, though, higher performance hybrid cars and cheaper power supplies should be the first benefits if this tech works out.

now if someone can just come up with a 300 mile battery pack that can recharge in about 5 minutes and be produced for under $5k.

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