Why Power Density is Important

March 8, 2018
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Power density is a key metric for power system designers. Although it’s obvious that wasting space makes little sense, increasing the power density (and therefore decreasing power system size) is a valuable activity. There are many reasons why higher power density produces benefits; here are our top five:

 

1.      High Power Density Enables More Functionality

Most systems have a limited total size. Whether it’s because the system must fit into a 1U 19” rack unit, because you’re upgrading an existing product or simply that the market demands a compact product, engineers need to develop solutions to meet space requirements.

It’s obvious that once size is limited, any volume consumed by the power system is space that can’t be used to deliver other functionality. With most designers being asked to increase the performance and capabilities of their systems, which also increases the power required to support it, this is a real challenge.

By increasing the power density, more power can be delivered in less space, increasing the volume available for the electronic systems, allowing the improvements in performance to be delivered from the same size enclosure. If not smaller!

 

2.      High Power Density Eliminates Distance

Power-on-Package Delivers Unmatched Power DensityCabling and PCB traces can have a significant impact on the performance of a power system due to their resistance. Whether it’s losses in the main power cable for a telecoms product or the “last inch” before a processor, reducing the length of conductors, particularly for low-voltage, high-current rails, is a characteristic of good power systems design.

Reducing this distance needs power components that are small enough to locate closer to the load. Although there are several examples of where this can be achieved, perhaps the best is our Power-on-Package (PoP) technology, where power components called MCMs  can deliver hundreds of Amps, yet are so small that they can be placed on the same substrate as the CPU, GPU or ASIC. Without the incredible power density of PoP, eliminating the “last inch” wouldn’t be possible.

 

3.      High Power Density Enables Upgrades

Upgrading products, whether new versions of existing systems or upgrades to be deployed in the field presents contradictory requirements. The increased functionality will almost always demand a power supply that can deliver higher current, yet often it will also require more space, leaving less room for the power system. Without a high-density solution, the power system simply won’t be able to deliver more from a reduced volume.

 

4.      Portability Needs High Power Density

Today the phone in your pocket is more powerful that the computers of just a couple of decades ago. This sets expectations of portability in many different industries, with end customers reluctant to accept systems that are tied to a particular location. Size and weight are the key factors that determine whether something can be moved around, and without high-density power, the system is likely to be too bulky to be portable.

Even when systems are not designed to be portable, reducing size and weight can cut the total cost of ownership by making installation and maintenance both easier and quicker. Large video displays mounted on buildings are an example of an application with very high installation and maintenance costs that can be reduced by using high power density components.

 

5.      Sometimes the Electronics Needs to “Disappear”

In many cases, from micro-cell base stations to architectural lighting, large enclosures are simply not acceptable. If you’re lighting a bridge to make it look beautiful at night, you really don’t want ugly housings for the lights that make it less attractive in the daylight.

By increasing power density, systems can be made smaller, allowing them to be “hidden” so that the aesthetics of the environment are not affected.

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