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Power supplies

Offline bus converter module maximizes system efficiency, minimizes heat losses

February 27, 2010 | Paul Buckley | 222900635
Joe Sullivan, Product Marketing Manager, Vicor Corporation explains how an offline bus converter module can minimize heat losses while maximizing system efficiency
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Over the past quarter century or so, businesses - banking, insurance firms, dispensers of online music, search engines, and everyone else - have become ever more reliant on the computer. Data centers or server farms have been proliferating worldwide to satisfy the demand, but, of greater interest here, they are becoming more massive. Because they need increasingly more power, which, of course, is more costly, efficient operation has become a high-priority. Since 100 percent efficiency is not achievable, the management of the heat generated is also a high priority.

So small size, high efficiency, and heat management are valuable attributes for any element in the system, but the elements that comprise the system depend to some extent on the architecture of the system.

Electricity is generated somewhere and it is distributed to the user (to the data center, say) where it is further distributed, usually in a number of steps. Somewhere along the line, it is changed from AC to DC for final consumption by arrays of processors at increasingly smaller voltages and higher currents. Efficiency drops at every conversion (AC to DC, a higher voltage to a lower voltage), so it is desirable to keep the number of conversions low. Much more power is wasted when it is distributed at lower voltages (and higher currents) because of I2R losses, so it is desirable to distribute at high voltage.

High voltage from the power line is converted to a lower voltage by some means, whether it is done in a silver box, which is typical of computer type applications, or whether it is done in a central office application. These applications typically start with AC power from the utility. In order to get DC the AC voltage needs to be rectified, and it is typically line reference to ground; therefore, it needs to be isolated and down converted.

The VI BRICK BCM (bus converter module) Array is a high efficiency (typically 95 percent), high-power vertically-mounted BCM array (see Figure 1) that provides isolation and conversion from 380 V to 12 or 48 V for low-voltage distribution near the point of load. The device incorporates the technical attributes of VI Chip technology in a robust package that facilitates thermal management.

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