Pre-Switch Technology White Paper

This white paper offers a discussion of the power electronics market, the dynamics that have driven it for over thirty years, and the quest to reliably and economically reduce switching and conduction losses. Ever more innovative topologies and semiconductor materials, like the newest generation of silicon IGBTs and MOSFET trench designs and faster SiC and GaN MOSFETs have been used to bring switching times down, but the resulting levels of dV/dt and EMI are a major roadblock to mass adoption.

Alberto Guerra provides an overview of Pre-Switch, a third option based on forced resonance soft-switching driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI), which offers a new, low-cost technology which enables a 70-95% reduction in switching losses and solves the dV/dt problems associated faster transistors.

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Motor Benefits

A Pre-Switch-enabled inverter reduces sine wave output distortion by 10X, enabling motors to run more efficiently. In a conventional hard switching design, the output ripple current of the half-bridge circuit switching back and forth at 10-15 switching events per fundamental frequency causes a significant level of distortion.  The distortion is effectively an induction heater in the motor coils and does no useful work. Pre-Switch technology minimizes this ripple by switching 10x faster.  The lower distortion fundamental sine wave to the motor is what we call a ‘clean wave’ and improves motor efficiency predominantly at lower RPM and lower torques which is where EV’s are driven and increases EV range.

The second benefit of the Pre-Switch soft switching architecture is that inverter dV/dt is configurable with a free lossless dV/dt filter that is part of the architecture.  Reducing dV/dt improves motor reliability and reduces motor winding insulation allowing higher power density motors. Due to the fast edge  speeds of WBG (SiC; GaN) transistors, high dV/dt is traded off for reduced switching losses.  But high dV/dt speeds of above 15-20V/ns can cause insulation damage. Inverter designers in the past accommodate these excessive dV/dt speeds by adding extra insulation in the motor. This approach has the adverse affect of reducing motor power density and increasing motor costs.  In contrast, the Pre-Switch architecture slows edge speeds but allows increased switching frequencies, eliminating the problem of high dV/dt speeds and reducing the insulation required. 

The faster switching speeds enabled with Pre-Switch can be used to spin motors faster.  In some applications a lower cost, lighter and higher RPM motor can be used.

The final benefit for motor design is that because Pre-Switch-enabled systems switch so fast, low inductance motors can be used which have the benefit of being smaller and lighter and lower cost. This is particularly suitable for applications such as electric aircraft, where designers are trying to reduce the amount of iron in the motors to keep weight to a minimum.