Nature of power electronics and integration of power conversion with communication for talkative power

Designing efficient power electronics by considering both power and communication electronics remains a challenge. Here, we revealed info-nature of power electronics and proposed a power/data double modulation strategy to enable power converter design integrated with communication.

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Power electronics is the most efficient way to convert electric power forms (such as AC/DC, DC/AC, DC/DC, or AC/AC) to meet diverse requirements. Since the birth of modern power electronics technology in 1960s, power electronic converters have been widely adopted in industrial and commercial applications, from mobile phone power supplies to high voltage direct current (HVDC) power transmission. Power converters mainly focus on the power modulation and conversion, and usually the input and output power are the control targets. To follow the new trend of systematization, networking and intellectualization, information and communication technology is indispensable for modern power electronics systems. Existing research shows that power electronics and communication electronics fall in two different areas and follow different operation principles.

However, we are keenly aware that both power electronics and communication electronics have common origin from electromagnetic theory and electric power is the indispensable matter-carrier of information, which offer us the theoretical basis to jointly consider power electronics and communications. Our group has spent many years in the research of the intrinsic connections between power electronics and communications based on the rich experience in power electronics and extensive knowledge of communications. Recently we have discovered and explored the info-nature of power electronics, and proposed power/data double modulation method as an example making full use of the info-nature for “talkative power”.

We studied tens of different power converters, all of which follow similar modulation and demodulation operation principles and focus on power conversion only. To improve and expand their functions, such as information interaction for distributed control and plug-and-play operation, extra circuits and/or wires were commonly used for communication. Now, based on our research findings, the data modulation can be synchronously integrated into power conversion, as shown in Fig.1 and Fig.2, thus the input or output power from the power converter carries information and becomes ‘talkative’.

Fig.1 Characteristics of power conversion and information interaction when the converter performs power/data double modulation.
Fig.2 Converter #1 uses power/data double modulation (PWM/FH-4DPSK) to achieve power conversion, as well as communication with converters #2 and #3 at the same time.

In the proposed “talkative power” concept, the power modulation aims to improve power conversion quality and efficiency, while the data modulation aims to improve data transmission efficiency. The innovative combination of the above two functions can significantly improve power converters’ performance. We have experimentally validated the double modulation method in a visible light communication system, in which power converters not only drive the LEDs, but also provide information.

The presented info-nature of power converters has many applications, and energy router is a typical one. Corresponding to the flexible information routing in the Internet, the energy router is aimed at flexible power routing in the future smart grids and the Internet of Things, etc. It requires synchronous power and information flows, while the “talkative power” well matches the requirement and would be an ideal solution. The talkative power converters could be further explored and widely used in all kinds of distributed power systems like electrified transportation system and communication power base stations, owning great engineering potentials and values.

If you are interested to know more about our research findings, please refer to the article "Nature of power electronics and integration of power conversion with communication for talkative power" at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-16262-0.

Xiangning He

Professor, Zhejiang University

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