PCB-Based Heterogeneous Integration of PFC/Inverter

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Virginia Tech


State-of-the-art silicon-based power supplies have reached a point of maturity in performance. Efficiency, power density, and cost are major trade-offs involved in further improvements. Most products are custom designed with significant non-recurrent engineering and manufacturing processes that are labor intensive. In particular, conventional magnetic components, including transformers and inductors, have largely remained the same for the past five decades. Those large and bulky magnetic components are major roadblocks toward an automated manufacturing process. In addition, there is no specific approach to reduce electromagnetic interference (EMI) in conventional practices. In certain cases, EMI filter design even requires a trial-and-error process. With recent advances in wide-bandgap (WBG) power semiconductor devices, namely, SiC and GaN, we have witnessed significant improvements in efficiency and power density, compared to their silicon counterparts. In a power factor correction (PFC) rectifier/inverter, the totem-pole configuration with critical conduction mode (CRM) operation to realize zero-voltage switching (ZVS) is deemed most desirable for a switching frequency 10 times higher than current practice. With a significantly higher operating frequency, the integration of inductors with embedded windings in the printed circuit board (PCB) is feasible. However, a PCB winding-based inductor has a fundamental limitation in terms of its power handling capability. The winding loss is proportional to the magnetomotive force (MMF), which is Ni. That is to say, with the number of layers (turns) and currents increased, winding loss is increased nonlinearly. Furthermore, for a large-size planar inductor, flux distribution is usually non-uniform, resulting in dramatically increased hysteresis loss and eddy loss. Thus, current designs are challenged by the capability to increase their power range. To address those issues, a modular building block approach is proposed in this dissertation. A planar PCB inductor is formed by an array of pillars that are integrated into one magnetic core, where each pillar handles roughly 750 W of power. The winding loss is reduced by limiting the number of turns for each pillar. The core loss is minimized with a proposed planar magnetic structure where rather uniformly distributed fluxes were observed in the plates. The proposed approach has a similar loss to a conventional litz wire-based design but features a higher power density and can be easily assembled in automation. A 3 kW high frequency PFC converter with 99% efficiency is demonstrated as an example. Furthermore, PCB-based designs up to 6 kW are provided. Another challenge in a WBG-based PFC/inverter is the high common-mode (CM) noises associated with the high dv/dt of the WBG devices. Symmetry and cancellation techniques are often employed to suppress CM noises in switching power converters. Meanwhile, shielding technique has been demonstrated to effectively suppress CM noises in an isolated converter with PCB-based transformer design. However, for non-isolated converters, such as PFC circuits, none of the techniques mentioned above are deemed applicable or justifiable. Recently, the balance technique has been demonstrated to effectively suppress CM noises up to a point where the parasitic ringing between the inductor and its winding capacitor is observed. This dissertation presents an improved balance technique in a PCB-based coupled inductor design that compensates for the detrimental effect of the interwinding capacitors. A CM noise model is established to simplify the convoluted couplings into a decoupled representation so as to illustrate the necessary conditions for realizing a balanced network. In the given 1 kW PFC example, CM noise suppression is effective in the frequency range of interest up to 30 MHz. The parasitic oscillation of inductors, known to be detrimental for CM noise reduction, is circumvented with the improved magnetic structure. By applying the balance technique to a PFC converter and the shielding technique to an LLC DC/DC converter, significant noise reductions were realized. This provides the opportunity to use a simple one-stage EMI filter to achieve the required EMI noise attenuation for a server power supply. This dissertation further offers an in-depth study on reducing the unwanted near-field couplings between the CM/DM inductors and DM filter capacitors, as well as unwanted self-parasitics such as the ESL of the DM capacitors. An exhaustive finite element analysis (FEA) and near field measurements are conducted to better understand the effect of frequency on the polarization of the near field due to the displacement current. The knowledge gained in this study enables one to minimize unwanted mutual coupling effects by means of physical placement of these filter components. Thus, for the first time, a single-stage EMI filter is demonstrated to meet the EMI standard in an off-line 1 kW, 12 V server power supply. With the academic contributions in this dissertation, a PCB winding-based inductor can be successfully applied to a high-frequency PFC/inverter to achieve high efficiency, high power density, automation in manufacturing, lower EMI, and lower cost. Suffice it to say, the proposed approach enables a paradigm shift in the designing and manufacturing of a PFC/inverter for the next generation of power supplies.



Wide-bandgap devices, high frequency, PCB winding-based inductor, EMI, balance technique, near field effect, PFC/inverter