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Vicor’s power trends for 2021

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By Nick Flaherty


The pandemic has accelerated data centre demand in 2021 beyond previous forecasts and will continue as a permanent increase even after the coronavirus has abated, says Lev Slutskiy, Vicor’s Regional Manager.

“In 2021, the quest for more power efficiency in the datacentre will step up a gear where we believe not only will the datacentre industry purchase more renewable energy than in previous years, but we anticipate more datacentres moving away from AC power in favour of DC infrastructure solutions to better cope with the massive increases in power demands of high-performance computing,” he said.

Data centre operators will need to pack more capacity into the existing rack space and this has significant implications for power delivery. AI, cloud and big data are driving demand for much higher processing power resulting in far higher energy consumption and higher currents, which in turn lead to increased losses of electricity due to power conversion and transformation processes. A third area for significant change in power innovation within the datacentre will be in terms of power delivery and power efficiency at the cabinet and rack level to deal with the increased computing power (multiple exa-FLOPS) needed to enable the cloud, AI and big data applications.

A more efficient way to manage power is to increase the voltage within these systems and to use direct current either after alternate current rectification or directly from a source of renewable energy. The task of conversion of the high voltage (usually 260 – 410 V DC) to the values used at the input of modern computing units (12V or better 48V) could be performed by bus converters.

“We believe that system designers will use more of these innovative architectural solutions, such as Factorized Power Architectures (FPAs),  and efficient converter modules to shorten the distances between the high current supplier module to the point of load (PoL), to lower PDN resistance which will minimize power loss in future supercomputing applications,” he said.  

Robotics

Robotics will also see significant innovation acceleration in 2021 as businesses look to robotics to safely engage with customers and perform tasks without exposing people to the coronavirus.

“By the end of 2021, for every woman, man and child in Europe there will be at least one sighting of a delivery robot or drone on its way to dropping off a package or disinfecting public spaces as a part of our fight against the pandemic,” said  Henryk Dabrowski, VP Sales for Vicor in EMEA.

To meet demand, robotics developers will need to leverage existing designs, treating them as platforms, rather than trying to develop new robots from the ground up. Scaling platforms will require power scaling to meet different sizes and capabilities of robots. A modular, scalable approach to power delivery will be critical to meeting this challenge, he says.

One of the key factors to expanding automated delivery services will be range and weight of the robot or drone. 

“Vicor enables designers to lighten their drones for performance and manage power in such a way that the drones can fly further and more reliably than ever before. We predict that denser populations in Europe’s cities will see many more bots than drones, while more remote areas such as Alps will see more drones help with crisis issues and delivery of vital medical supplies, while heavier deliveries will be supported by autonomous trucks,” he said.

“In Europe, Tescos, Amazon, DHL and UPS have all began trials with delivery drones and we see the recent pandemic as the tipping point to push retail towards a complete digital transformation. The convenience of home delivery that people have become accustomed to during lockdown will mean that in-person shopping at your favourite store or supermarket will not return to pre-pandemic levels. The use of robots rolling around the streets, and drones in the air will enable retailers to provide deliveries at even lower cost. In China, drones have already begun deliveries to remote parts of the country, and we see accelerated progress with logistics companies achieving permissions from national flight authorities to allow for retail air travel via drone.”

Aerospace

As a result of the massive investment to combat Covid 19, governments around the world have had to reprioritise and shift economic support to help communities, businesses and citizens deal with the impact of the pandemic. Teo DeLellis, Vicor’s Business Development for Aerospace points to a recent study highlighting that defence spending is down among NATO’s top European spenders.

“Consequently, as we enter 2021, there will be incredible fiscal pressure on governments to redirect funds away from traditional budget strongholds, such as defence, to shore up national economies, social welfare and other important endeavours,” he said.

“We believe that technology and innovation will need to pick up the shortfall between these contradictory pressures enabling governments to do much more with less while maintaining military readiness with new digitally enabled technologies. Asymmetric warfare will be an important driver of change in 2021 as the “drone swarm” attack scenario puts high value targets at risk from low value drones, and taking out a $1,000 drone with a $100,000 missile is not sustainable.  This will drive technological advances like integrating AI more into defence systems and deploying lasers to deal with the rise of drone swarms more effectively. Drone technology will continue to dominate the landscape of reconnaissance as power supply technology will help missions to go further and longer than before,” he added.

Automotive

Automotive is also a key area for power designs with the migration to 48V systems, despite being among the hardest hit by the global pandemic.

“2021 will see more 48V battery systems, particularly in mild hybrids, as manufacturers add active suspension, rear wheel steering or antiroll stabilization systems,” said Nicolas Richard, Vicor’s Director of EMEA Automotive Business Development.  

“Supporting this move, more 48V systems will need to convert down to 12V to support car safety, comfort, infotainment, and navigation systems. In addition to enabling lighter cabling or delivering higher power, the conversion from the high-voltage batteries in HEVs and EVs is more efficient when the step down required is reduced by increasing the voltage to 48V,” he said. “Primary battery voltages used to power EVs and HEVs will also increase in voltage with 800V becoming much more common allowing faster charging time. These changes demand a new class of power components to create the power distribution network within next year’s automobiles.”

www.vicor.com

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