Evaluation and Optimization of Communication Loop Inductance by Logan Horowitz

Logan Horowitz

UC Berkeley | Diana & Steve Strandberg

I am developing the design of a next-generation high-power-density, high-efficiency, high-frequency drivetrain for future commercial electric aircraft. My research group has pioneered work on complex multi-level and multi-phase converter designs which are the current state of the art in the field. I am extending this further by coming up with new automated design methodologies and improved modeling of converter performance.

ABSTRACT

It is essential that the world rids itself of its dependence on fossil fuels in order to achieve a sustainable society. While electric vehicles have become mainstream in recent years, electric flight is still almost entirely absent. Commercial air travel accounts for a large proportion of pollution and wasted energy all over the world. NASA has proposed that hybrid-electric aircraft could achieve a reduction of 33% in fuel consumption, 55% in NOx emissions at cruise, and 60% in NOx emissions at landing and take-off. New technologies are emerging which have enabled viable hybrid aircrafts. In this work, a high-power-density, high-efficiency, high frequency electric drivetrain is discussed and the design optimizations are considered. The drivetrain consists of a power converter which takes energy from the fuel source, often batteries, and uses it to apply appropriate voltages and currents to spin the plane’s motors. The standard design, used for decades, switches between off and on at different times to direct current in a sequence to each of the motor’s coils. Although simple, this causes a huge voltage swing at every switch transition, which hurts performance. In recent years, more complex multi-level converter topologies have proven to be superior in terms of power-density, efficiency, and waveform distortion as opposed to standard 2-level designs. As the name suggests, these designs switch between many different voltage levels. Achieving and maintaining these voltage domains is complex, but allows for unprecedented performance far beyond the state of the art in industry. These converters work by switching between different circuit states depending on how we want to drive the motor. This switching occurs at very high frequencies and is ideally instantaneous and lossless. Depending on the physical design of the converter, however, there will be unwanted ‘parasitic’ inductances which cause harmful voltage oscillations during these switching transitions that will break or degrade the converter. In order to design next-generation drivetrains, it will be necessary to understand and model these parasitic components, estimate their impact on performance, and develop new designs which cancel out their effects and switch more ideally.

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