Power electronics

Power electronics refers to devices, circuits and systems that manage electrical energy. It is a wide ranging technical area that cuts across various sectors and research areas. The technology covers a large spectrum of power levels, from milliwatt DC/DC power converters for maintaining voltage levels in consumer electronic devices as battery power degrades, through kilowatt power systems utilised in Electric vehicles to gigawatt Thyristor valve stacks for high power conversion and distribution direct from generation sources.

Power electronics systems are the result of hierarchies of research, design and manufacturing activities across many scientific and engineering disciplines. System design and integration skills play a core role while other important aspects include basic materials, component technologies, electrical engineering, analogue and digital electronics, control, sensors, thermal management, mechanical engineering and reliability science.

The 2011 Business Innovation & Skills Strategy highlights a skills shortage in this area as being a potential major inhibitor of future growth and national capability. Proposals should have significant input and support from industry that cuts across sectors. We are looking to support training that provides breadth and depth of knowledge needed in the various sectors and would expect the support from major industrial stakeholders to reflect this.

The cohort approach would be particularly valuable in this area as it is inherently multidisciplinary; while systems design and integration skills are particularly needed for the long term health of the sector. The model proposed should provide the opportunities for individuals to gain the depth of knowledge required in particular sub areas combined with a high degree of interaction with research activities in different aspects of the system, producing a generation of engineers able to work effectively across sector boundaries, driving forward much needed coordination across a fragmented academic and industrial landscape.

Through a call released in February 2012, EPSRC plans to support a multi-site virtual centre of research excellence in Power electronics. We would expect proposals in this area to complement and build on this virtual centre.