Miniature pulsed power system looks to disrupt energy, healthcare

Technology News |
By Rich Pell

Pulsed power systems accumulate and store large amounts of energy for a certain period of time to be released instantaneously later. Traditionally bulky and expensive, such systems have been used in defense systems such as radar systems and have been key to the creation of x-ray machines, MRI machines and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR)-based tools for fossil fuel production.

Now, the researchers are proposing creating a gallium nitride (GaN)-based mini-pulsed power system that can shrink a pulsed power system’s energy storage components, such as capacitors, and deliver an immediate surge of power. In their research, they demonstrated that the energy storage elements can be reduced to below one-tenth the size of conventional pulsed power systems used on critical applications such as radar.

The architecture of their new pulsed power system proved so compelling, say the researchers, that the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) recently awarded them a $1 million grant to build it.

“Initially we’ll make a compact pulsed power supply for extreme environment fluid characterization that can disruptively reduce the cost of downhole well logging tools used in fossil and geothermal energy production,” says Cullen College Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Harish Krishnamoorthy. “This will be followed by a miniaturized converter suitable for mobile hand-held MRI machines.”

“However,” says Krishnamoorthy, “we think that we can extend our technology to make small water-purification systems, pulsed laser systems and pulsed electro-magnetic radiation sources. We’re essentially creating a small high-density energy storage machine that will help with reducing the space these machines use, which will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in material costs and improve their reliability”

For more, see “GaN based two-stage converter with high power density and fast response for pulsed load applications.”


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