High-Efficiency Low-Voltage High-Current Power Stage Design Considerations for Fuel Cell Power Conditioning Systems
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Fuel cells typically produce low-voltage high-current output because their individual cell voltage is low, and it is nontrivial to balance for a high-voltage stack. In addition, the output voltage of fuel cells varies depending on load conditions. Due to the variable low voltage output, the energy produced by fuel cells typically requires power conditioning systems to transform the unregulated source energy into more useful energy format. When evaluating power conditioning systems, efficiency and reliability are critical. The power conditioning systems should be efficient in order to prevent excess waste of energy. Since loss is dissipated as heat, efficiency directly affects system reliability as well. High temperatures negatively affect system reliability. Components are much more likely to fail at high temperatures. In order to obtain excellent efficiency and system reliability, low-voltage high-current power conditioning systems should be carefully designed. Low-voltage high-current systems require carefully designed PCB layouts and bus bars. The bus bar and PCB trace lengths should be minimized. Therefore, each needs to be designed with the other in mind. Excessive PCB and bus bar lengths can introduce parasitic inductances and resistances which are detrimental to system performance. In addition, thermal management is critical. High power systems must have sufficient cooling in order to maintain reliable operation. Many sources of loss exist for converters. For low-voltage high-current systems, conduction loss and switching loss may be significant. Other potential non-trivial sources of loss include magnetic losses, copper losses, contact and termination losses, skin effect losses, snubber losses, capacitor equivalent series resistance (ESR) losses, and body diode related losses. Many of the losses can be avoided by carefully designing the system. Therefore, in order to optimize efficiency, the designer should be aware of which components contribute significant amounts of loss. Loss analysis may be performed in order to determine the various sources of loss. The system efficiency can be improved by optimizing components that contribute the most loss. This thesis surveys some potential topologies suitable for low-voltage high-current systems. One low-voltage high-current system in particular is analyzed in detail. The system is called the V6, which consists of six phase legs, and is arranged as a three full-bridge phase-shift modulated converter to step-up voltage for distributed generation applications. The V6 converter has current handling requirements of up to 120A. Basic operation and performance is analyzed for the V6 converter. The loss within the V6 converter is modeled and efficiency is estimated. Calculations are compared with experimental results. Efficiency improvement through parasitic loss reduction is proposed by analyzing the losses of the V6 converter. Substantial power savings are confirmed with prototypes and experimental results. Loss analysis is utilized in order to obtain high efficiency with the V6 converter. Considerations for greater current levels of up to 400A are also discussed. The greater current handling requirements create additional system issues. When considering such high current levels, parallel devices or modules are required. Power stage design, layout, and bus bar issues due to the high current nature of the system are discussed.
- Masters Theses