Germany (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) Innovative power supply offers up to 50 years of service life

In the household, in the office, in industry: switching power supplies are omnipresent in our everyday lives. They convert alternating current from the house line into direct current, which smartphones, laptops and the like need as well as charging stations for electric cars and entire logistics or data centers. So far, these have had to be replaced after usually nine years of continuous operation. The spin-off of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) Digital Power Systems (DPS) has now shown power supplies with a service life of 50 years in tests.

Today’s switching power supplies are light and compact, but also error-prone due to the electrolytic capacitors installed in them. Film capacitors are much more durable. However, these require up to ten times more space – until now: “We have developed a digital control method that allows us to use film capacitors in a space-saving manner,” says DPS Managing Director Michael Heidinger. This results in a much lower maintenance effort than with conventional power supplies: “The technology is a game changer for all areas where reliability is important,” says Heidinger. “For example, in data centers or logistics centers or flight security lighting.” Because service calls to replace defective power supplies, cost a multiple of the device price itself.

Lifetime five times longer than power supplies with electrolytic capacitor

Joint tests with the Light Technology Institute of KIT have proven a service life of the power supplies of 50 years at an ambient temperature of 40 degrees. “This exceeds the service life of established power supplies by about five times,” says Heidinger. No power supply had yet failed, so the tests would continue. “So there is still room for improvement.”

Digital control saves space

The novel digital control method, which allows film capacitors to be used with only slightly increased space requirements, runs on a microprocessor built into the power supply. It detects disturbing environmental influences, so that, for example, higher voltage fluctuations on the film capacitor can be compensated. As a result, storage capacitors with lower capacitance are sufficient. This technology only became possible with the spread of very powerful microprocessors, explains Heidinger.

Use in aviation security

The power supply is already used for emergency lighting – also known as lighting – on obstacles for aircraft such as industrial chimneys, wind turbines or radio masts. Defective power supplies can usually only be replaced there cumbersome and expensive with the help of industrial climbers.

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As “The Research University in the Helmholtz Association”, KIT creates and imparts knowledge for society and the environment. The aim is to make significant contributions to global challenges in the fields of energy, mobility and information. To this end, around 9,800 employees work together on a broad disciplinary basis in the natural sciences, engineering, economics, humanities and social sciences. KIT prepares its 22,300 students for responsible tasks in society, industry, and science through research-oriented university studies. Innovation activities at KIT bridge the gap between knowledge and application for social benefit, economic prosperity, and preservation of our natural resources. KIT is one of Germany’s Universities of Excellence.