Miniaturized Power Electronic Interfaces for Ultra-compact Electromechanical Systems
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Advanced and ultra-compact electromechanical (EM) systems, such as kinetic energy harvesting and microrobotic systems are deemed as enabling solutions to provide efficient energy conversion. One of the most critical challenges in such systems is to develop tiny power electronic interfaces (PEIs) capable of addressing power conditioning between EM devices and energy storage units. This dissertation presents technologies and topological solutions toward fabricating miniaturized PEIs to efficiently regulate erratic power/voltage for kinetic energy harvesting and drive high-voltage actuators for microrobotic systems. High-frequency resonant-switching topologies are introduced as power stages of PEIs that allow small footprint of the circuit without suffering from switching losses. Two types of bridgeless resonant ac-dc converters are first introduced and developed to efficiently convert arbitrary input voltages into a regulated dc output voltage. The proposed topologies provide direct ac-dc power conversion with less number of components, in comparison to other resonant topologies. A 5-mm×6-mm, 100-mg, 2-MHz and 650-mW prototype is fabricated for validation of capability of converting very-low ac voltages into a relatively higher voltage. A resonant gate drive circuit is designed and utilized to further reduce gating losses under high-frequency switching and light-load condition. The closed-loop efficiency reaches higher than 70% across wide range of input voltages and output powers. In a multi-channel energy harvesting system, a multi-input bridgeless resonant ac-dc converter is developed to achieve ac-dc conversion, step up voltage and match optimal impedance. Alternating voltage of each energy harvesting channel is stepped up through the switching LC network and then rectified by a freewheeling diode. The optimal electrical impedance can be adjusted through resonance impedance matching and pulse-frequency-modulation (PFM) control. In addition, a six-input standalone prototype is fabricated to address power conditioning for a six-channel wind panel. Furthermore, the concepts of miniaturization are incorporated in the context of microrobots. In a mobile microrobotic system, conventional bulky power supplies and electronics used to drive electroactive polymer (EAP) actuators are not practical as on-board energy sources for microrobots. A bidirectional single-stage resonant dc-dc step-up converter is introduced and developed to efficiently drive high-voltage EAP actuators. The converter utilizes resonant capacitors and a coupled-inductor as a soft-switched LC network to step up low input voltages. The circuit is capable of generating explicit high-voltage actuation signals, with capability of recovering unused energy from EAP actuators. A 4-mm × 8-mm, 100-mg and 600-mW prototype has been designed and fabricated to drive an in-plane gap-closing electrostatic inchworm motor. Experimental validations have been carried out to verify the circuit’s ability to step up voltage from 2 V to 100 V and generate two 1-kHz, 100-V driving voltages at 2-nF capacitive loads.