Mar 7, 2011

APEC: Day 1

So I was lounging around my hotel room and I thought I would do a blog entry per day while I am attending the Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC). These entries will be more for myself then to convey any concepts or discuss any technology in particular. Each day of the conference is a little different so I am hoping to get a little variety in the entries.

Today, things started at 9:30 am with registration. I took a few pictures of the APEC schwag they gave me in my welcome bag. Most of the packet contained the presentations given over the first two days in three giant books.

 Figure 1. The APEC 2011 Conference proceedings
They also threw in a nice looking flash drive with the APEC logo. Apparently, however, it seems its merely a prop because I can’t get my computer to recognize the drive.

 Figure 2. Bogus APEC drive

The first seminar I went to today was called “Introduction to Microcontrollers” with speaker Robert White. An MIT graduate, White now works for Embedded Power Labs designing digital control loops for power supplies. The lecture was about 2.5 hours long and worth every second. I was very surprised to find out how much I already knew about microcontrollers compared to the senior design engineers attending the presentation. White covered most of the topics I have spent the last year or so reading about including: RISC vs CISC, clock speed vs instruction speed, addressing, architectures, and digital controls. For me, this lecture was more about filling the in gaps then learning anything revolutionary. I think I got more out of this lecture though than I would have going into one where I was less familiar with the subject matter mostly because I have practical experience with microcontrollers.

The second lecture I attended was called “LED Lighting: Trends, Standard, Optics, and Power Electronics Drivers”. This was actually a last minute change based on the material I was reading in the books. For the last three months, I had been planning to attend “Using Digital Signal Controllers to Implement Switch Mode Power Supplies”. I wanted to stick with the idea of going to lectures where I have practical experience so I thought LEDs would be appropriate. Ultimately, the lecture was a wakeup to how much I don’t know about LEDs. Designing with these simple devices is far more complicated for even general purpose lighting then I ever imagined.

Lighting makes up about 20% of the national energy consumption in the United States so any efficiency improvement that can be made to the designs could potentially save billions (yes billions) of dollars a year. As of right now, a 7W LED bulb can produce the same amount of light, measured in lumens, as a 40W incandescent bulb with 20% efficiency. The incandescent efficiency is around 8%. The difficulty with the implementation of LED bulbs is the infrastructure we have spent the last 100 years developing. The United States is set to handle Edison sockets in nearly every commercial lamp. However, including power electronic driver circuits and necessary heat sinks into an Edison socket form factor is challenging.

In his lecture, Dr. Brad Lehman from Northeastern University discussed the ways engineers are overcoming these challenges. In addition, he covered tons about optics and discussed his personal research into biological effects of high frequency LED pulses. Overall, it was a bit more dense than the microcontroller lecture but for more eye-opening. When I do a blog on LEDs, I may need more than one entry now.

I am off to a good start during this conference. I actually managed to give out a business card too so that was pretty cool. We will see what tomorrow has to offer. Until then, yvan eht nioj!


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