Supporting an energy efficient future

Louise Smyth

From power management and distribution of renewable energy sources, through to electric vehicle development and even wireless phone charging, power electronics and associated research is a dominant trend. Changing technical demands and the increasing reliance upon electronics in everyday life demand that the electronics industry is supported with products to aid operation and efficiency of end products and protect them from surrounding adverse conditions affecting reliability and performance. This article has been produced to discuss some of the challenges faced by this evolving field and to identify some of the ways that specialist chemical products can assist in working towards a more intelligent and energy efficient future.

The need to reduce climate change is prevalent, with global recognition of its impact resulting in many targets being put into place to ensure that dramatic changes in our energy usage occur. The EU has devised the 2020 package with reductions based on 1990 levels. The package includes a 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions, 20% of energy from renewable sources and a 20% improvement in efficiency by 2020(1). Some countries also have their own targets; for example, the UK is looking to achieve an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050(2). As a consequence, the dominance of energy derived from fossil fuels is no longer considered appropriate in some quarters. In a technological age where energy is so important to our everyday lives, it is imperative that we focus on increasing our energy efficiency across all industries and with that thought in mind, we shall discuss power electronics.

Power electronics provide the efficient conversion of electrical energy, typically involving a change to the voltage or current level and/or frequency. The power levels involved can range from very low to very high, mW to GW (for example), therefore the applications are wide ranging. There are some obvious examples where the level of energy efficiency is a critical factor for success and these include the automotive electric vehicle and LED industries. Wireless phone charging, connection of renewable energy sources, power distribution and sensor technology are a few more key areas. So how do we improve our energy efficiency across the spectrum of these areas? The design of these electronics is clearly the most important factor, but in order for these electronics to work and achieve maximum efficiency under a variety of conditions, the use of thermal management materials and protective products may be the vital step towards achieving these targets to fully maximise the efficiency and reliability of power electronics.

To read more about this subject and how thermal management is of vital importance in this sector, view the full article here