Power Architectures and Design for Next Generation Microprocessors
Ahmed, Mohamed Hassan Abouelella
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With the rapid increase of cloud computing and the high demand for digital content, it is estimated that the power consumption of the IT industry will reach 10 % of the total electric power in the USA by 2020. Multi-core processors (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs) are the key elements in fulfilling all of the digital content requirements, but come with a price of more power-hungry processors, driving the power per server rack to 20 KW levels. The need for more efficient power management solutions on the architecture level, down to the converter level, is inevitable. Recently, data centers have replaced the 12V DC server rack distribution with a 48V DC distribution, producing a significant overall system efficiency improvement. However, 48V rack architecture raises significant challenges for the voltage regulator modules (VRMs) required for powering the processor. The 48V VRM in the vicinity of the CPU needs to be designed with very high efficiency, high power density, high light-load efficiency, as well as meet all transient requirements by the CPU and GPU. Transferring the well-developed multi-phase buck converter used in the 12V VRM to the 48V distribution platform is not that simple. The buck converter operating with 48V, stepping down to sub 2V, will be subjected to significant switching related loss, resulting in lower overall system efficiency. These challenges drive the need to look for more efficient architectures for 48V VRM solutions. Two-stage conversions can help solve the design challenges for 48V VRMs. A first-stage unregulated converter is used to step-down the 48V to a specific intermediate bus voltage. This voltage will feed a multi-phase buck converter that powers the CPU. An unregulated LLC converter is used for the first-stage converter, with zero voltage switching (ZVS) operation for the primary side switches, and zero current switching (ZCS) along with ZVS operation, for the secondary side synchronous rectifiers (SRs). The LLC converter can operate at high frequency, in order to reduce the magnetic components size, while achieving high-efficiency. The high-efficiency first-stage, along with the scalability and high bandwidth control of the second-stage, allows this architecture to achieve high-efficiency and power density. This architecture is simpler to adopt by industry, by plugging the unregulated converter before the existing multi-phase buck converters on today's platforms. The first challenge for this architecture is the transformer design of the first-stage LLC converter. It must avoid all of the loss associated with high frequency operations, and still achieve high power density without scarifying efficiency. In this thesis, the integrated matrix transformer structure is optimized by SR integration with windings, interleaved primary side termination, and a better PCB winding arrangement to achieve high-efficiency and power density, and minimize the losses associated with high-frequency operations. The second challenge is the light load efficiency improvement. In this thesis a light load efficiency improvement is proposed by a dynamic change of the intermediate bus voltage, resulting in more than 8 % light load efficiency improvements. The third challenge is the selection of the optimal bus voltage for the two-stage architecture. The impact of different bus voltages was analyzed in order to maximize the overall conversion efficiency. Multiple 48V unregulated converters were designed with maximum efficiency >98 %, and power densities >1000 W/in3, with different output voltages, to select the optimal bus voltage for the two-stage VRM. Although the two-stage VRM is more scalable and simpler to design and adopt by current industry, the efficiency will reduce as full power flows in two cascaded DC/DC converters. Single-stage conversion can achieve higher-efficiency and power-density. In this thesis, a quasi-parallel Sigma converter is proposed for the 48V VRM application. In this structure, the power is shared between two converters, resulting in higher conversion efficiency. With the aid of an optimized integrated magnetic design, a Sigma converter suitable for narrow voltage range applications was designed with 420 W/in3 and a maximum efficiency of 94 %. Later, another Sigma converter suitable for wide voltage range applications was designed with 700W/in3 and a maximum efficiency of 95 %. Both designs can achieve higher efficiency than the two-stage VRM and all other state-of-art solutions. The challenges associated with the Sigma converter, such as startup and closed loop control were addressed, in order to make it a viable solution for the VRM application. The 48V rack architecture requires regulated 12V output converters for various loads. In this thesis, a regulated LLC is used to design a high-efficiency and power-density 48V bus converter. A novel integration method of the inductor and transformer helps the LLC achieve the required regulation capability with minimum losses, resulting in a converter that can provide 1KW of continuous power with efficiency of 97.8 % and 700 W/in3 power density. This dissertation discusses new power architectures with an optimized design for the 48V rack architectures. With the academic contributions in this dissertation, different conversion architectures can be utilized for 48V VRM solutions that solve all of the challenges associated with it, such as scalability, high-efficiency, high density, and high BW control.
General Audience Abstract
With the rapid increase of cloud computing and the high demand for digital content, it is estimated that the power consumption of the IT industry will reach 10 % of the total electric power in the USA by 2020. Multi-core processors (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs) are the key elements in fulfilling all of the digital content requirements but come with a price of more power-hungry processors, driving the power per server rack to 20 KW levels. The need for more efficient power management solutions on the architecture level, down to the converter level, is inevitable. The data center manufacturers have recently adopted a more efficient architecture that supplies a 48V DC server rack distribution instead of a 12V DC distribution to the server motherboard. This helped reduce costs and losses, but as a consequence, raised a challenge in the design of the DC/DC voltage regulator modules (VRM) supplied by the 48V, in order to power the CPU and GPU. In this work, different architectures will be explored for the 48V VRM, and the trade-off between them will be evaluated. The main target is to design the VRM with very high-efficiency and high-power density to reduce the cost and size of the CPU/GPU motherboards. First, a two-stage power conversion structure will be used. The benefit of this structure is that it relies on existing technology using the 12V VRM for powering the CPU. The only modification required is the addition of another converter to step the 48V to the 12V level. This architecture can be easily adopted by industry, with only small modifications required on the system design level. Secondly, a single-stage power conversion structure is proposed that achieves higher efficiency and power density compared to the two-stage approach; however, the structure is very challenging to design and to meet all requirements by the CPU/GPU applications. All of these challenges will be addressed and solved in this work. The proposed architectures will be designed using an optimized magnetic structure. These structures achieve very high efficiency and power density in their designed architectures, compared to state-of-art solutions. In addition, they can be easily manufactured using automated manufacturing processes.
- Doctoral Dissertations