There has been a movement in the semiconductor industry over the last decade to meet the increasing demand for greener electronics for a whole host of applications in the consumer and industrial sectors. The driving forces include: increasing energy demand and prices trending higher, growing concerns over the expanding carbon footprint of energy production and its potential relationship to global warming; thus, causing more focus on harvesting energy and minimizing energy consumption. Power management ICs, which represent an integral part of almost every electronic system, are critical for producing greener electronics. The importance of power management ICs are not often highlighted in this respect; yet are of the utmost importance for enabling the development of energy-efficient products and solutions.
Power management ICs aid in lowering the standby power dissipation in an electrical system and have already achieved attained improvements in both conventional and battery-powered electronic devices over recent years. Now that power-hungry portable electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and notebook computers with advanced multimedia and internet capability are becoming increasingly popular globally, the demand for mainly analog power management ICs, which can not only extend the battery life of devices but also offer a measure of remaining battery power, is growing rapidly. There is definitely ample opportunity for technology advancements with respect to battery life for mobile electronics, since battery life is limiting the scope of future capabilities.
Beyond just commonly used analog chips, more applications have emerged for digital power management ICs for more advanced functionality including power conversion, control and communication by using a digital feedback loop. The global market for digital power management ICs is expected to follow the growth trend of analog chips over the next few years. Driving forces for this trend encompass: high-performance products that incorporate voltage rails and high currents such as high-end servers, networking, storage and computing devices, datacom, routing and telecommunications equipment.
Moreover, the transition towards smart meters for monitoring energy usage and the potential implementation of a national smart grid infrastructure to support a shift towards solar and wind energy, would additionally boost the demand for power ICs. Both of the top utilities in the Phoenix, Arizona metro area, SRP and APS, have carried out programs over the last couple years to install millions of smart meters across their customer base for real-time energy usage monitoring and trend analysis. Increased sales of electric and hybrid vehicles, that potentially could tie into a smart grid infrastructure, will also enhance market profile for digital power management ICs, but hybrid sales have become stagnant since government tax incentives expired and gas prices have moderated.
Semiconductors are enablers to energy-saving solutions for green electronics. In specific, power management ICs refer to circuits that range from applications such as managing the power used within a larger electronic system such as a cell phone, TV or computer to applications supporting new power saving technologies like smart meters and grids or more efficient LED lighting. In the first case, the power management circuitry is allowing the semiconductor application itself to be more efficient, while the power management IC also enables a broader diverse system such as LED light fixtures to be more energy-efficient.
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