Amber Semi looks to high power AC-DC conversion

Amber Semi looks to high power AC-DC conversion

Interviews |
By Nick Flaherty

Having shipped samples of its first device, power startup Amber Semiconductor is looking at high power AC-DC conversion.

The first device is aimed at AC-DC lighting controllers at 5W, but the technology is works just as well for high voltage DC conversion down to low voltage, Thar Casey, CEO and founder of Amber Semiconductor tells Nick Flaherty of eeNews Europe.

“We have an architecture breakthrough that can go into almost anything, Focus for us is extremely important so when we started, we looked at building infrastructure with electromechanical switching and circuit breakers from the 1950s,” said Casey.

“We are still working on the lighting control and in discussions with companies but now we are getting pull demand for industrial switching. Using GaN and SIC we can scale this to industrial applications to avoid a short circuit bringing down a production line,” he said. “What we are going to bring intelligence with self learning and makes decisions on its own, for example to recognise deterioration so before the machine goes down.”

 The company has developed its own software and algorithms to identify and stop short circuits that can cascade to other equipment, sampling the mains at around 1MHz.

“What we have is the switching power so when you see the short circuit coming we can isolate that incident only to that location and prevent the cascading event. At the end of the day its still the same principle as a circuit breaker but in reality it is more that that, it is circuit protection,” he said.  

“We have demonstrated this short circuit technology in Europe. It can handle anything coming in from the grid and inductive loads from the equipment. Tested short circuits up to 65A, 100A, at 120V, all the way to 10,000A and they couldn’t bust our technology.”

“So the first product is an AC-DC converter enabler, that has taped out, the wafers are coming back for packaging and sending engineering samples and test kits to potential customers for feedback to start the commercialisation.

“Now we are maturing from R&D to commercialising and the product launch and we are looking for the strategic alliances,” he said. The company has deals with Infineon Technologies and ?????

This is a chip that goes on the board with a handful of components and has the potential from 250mW to 5W, from 25V to 277V input and output from 1.8V to 24V with some fixed and one variable output.

“The technology is scalable, it will go as high as we want it,” he said. “We extract the DC direct from the mains through the architecture. You have the speed and reliability, the efficiency is over 80%, the ripple is almost zero and the regulation is the same as the voltage goes up.”

The silicon can be used in many different ways, he says.

“A chiplet architecture is very important as it allows the engineer to be more creative and makes the packaging easier, so the customer has the option to be both, with MOSFETs inside or the outside. We can drive GaN with a gate driver.”

“At the end of the day this is for a housekeeping power supply 5W and below, for anything. It is also the supply for the AC switch for the circuit breakers and the dimmers as a foundational element,” he said.

Now he is looking at other areas such as high voltage AC.

“We started with AC but DC is a big deal, HVDC is a big deal,” he said. “Now we have a solution where it is a HVDC to LVDC without the typical step down so we can bring HVDC to 1.8V – that’s a brand new world.”


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