Power component supplier Vicor has been working with VoltServer in the US on a new approach to energy delivery with a patented technique called Digital Electricity. The technology that safely transmits up to 2kW of power across long distances of up to 2km using low-cost, off-the-shelf data cables.
To date, VoltServer has been deployed in hundreds of venues including stadiums, airports, convention centers, office towers, hotels, condominiums, hospitals and indoor gardens, powering 4G, 5G and Wi-Fi wireless communications, LED lighting and IoT applications
Digital Electricity is a line powering system for powering remote equipment from a centralized location over structured copper cable. It safely runs high-voltage power over lightweight data cable and delivers low current downstream to power loads. Similar to power-over-ethernet (PoE), this enables VoltServer to transport both digital data and power in a single hybrid cabling infrastructure, making it much easier and more economical to install than conventional 110/220 electrical systems.
The technique takes conventional electricity and breaks it into small pulses, or “energy packets.” Each packet is sent to a receiver from a transmitter that contains local, embedded processing. Each energy packet is analyzed using a digital signal processing engine to determine that power is being precisely and safely distributed. If a fault is detected, the next energy packet is not sent. Each packet contains only a very small amount of energy, so individually they are not harmful to people, animals, systems or buildings. The receiver converts Digital Electricity back into analog AC or DC to power local loads.
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Each packet of electricity is sent to a receiver from a transmitter. Each packet contains only a very small amount of energy and is checked for safety. Each packet is not harmful to people, animals, systems, or buildings. The VoltServer products are listed and certified to safety and EMC standards by a Nationally Recognized Test Laboratory.
Vicor has worked closely with VoltServer since they began product development. Vicor ruggedized, passively-cooled BCM DC-DC fixed-ratio bus converters are designed into the receivers transforming the higher transmission voltage to a safe low voltage to power the loads. The 97 percent power efficiency allows reliable cooling without a fan within a smaller enclosure. . They provide the power efficiency that allows the receivers to be placed in tight, enclosed spaces that are too small to accommodate cooling fans. This allows the VoltServer platform to operate more efficiently with much smaller heat sinks and significantly shrinks the receiver footprint.
“Imagine a powerful stream of water sent through your plumbing. If a pipe were to burst, the high pressure could injure someone. Instead, break the stream down into millions of droplets,” explained VoltServer co-founder and CEO, Stephen Eaves. “The droplets can be put back together to get the amount of water needed, but each droplet of water is safe. Digital Electricity is similar by only putting a small amount of energy in packets. Each packet becomes safe, but the total power needs can still be met.”
Because the platform is natively digital, it can also provide insights into energy use with a centralized dashboard. This gives building operators and maintenance staff a granular view of their electric grid to better manage critical loads while eliminating the need for traditional circuit breaker panels.
VoltServer uses the Vicor compact BCM6123 fixed-ratio bus converter (0.99 x 2.402 x 0.286in) in the endpoint receivers to efficiently convert the power packets. Vicor BCMs use a proprietary, low-noise, high-efficiency Sine Amplitude Converter (SAC) topology that requires little electromagnetic filtration. This further shrinks the power system footprint and simplifies the design while meeting EMI standards.
“With the Vicor converter, we have 43 percent less heat loss than a normal converter, and the heat sink size decreases proportionately,” said Dan Lowe, VoltServer co-founder and Chief Business Officer. “Our customers include the top three mobile network operators in the U.S., so the requirements for reliability are extremely demanding. That’s where Vicor comes in really, really neatly.”
“With so little electromagnetic filtering needed, we can make the Digital Electricity receiver very compact and mount it pretty much anywhere,” he said. “Any other converter would generate more heat. That means that the receiver box would need to be much bigger and would require a lot more cooling – and ultimately would cost a lot more and be more difficult to install in space constrained locations.”
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