48 V Bi-Directional DC-DC Conversion with GaN

The Convergence of the 48 V BUS for Data Center and Automotive Power

One of the early high-volume applications for GaN was for 48 V DC-DC power supplies. Due to the significant improvements that GaN offers in switching performance and size reduction, power supply designers realized that GaN FETs could make higher power density and more efficient 48 V power supplies. These supplies are needed in high-density computing applications for cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and gaming. Record power density and efficiency could be realized with simple topologies like the 1 kW LLC converter EPC9149.

And now, the automotive industry started to follow a similar path. Given the growing demand for electronically-driven functions within the vehicle, such as electric steering, electric air conditioning, electric suspension, and many USB-C charging ports within modern cars and trucks, the traditional 14 V power distribution buses have been growing in size and weight at an alarming pace. Today, a mild hybrid car requires between 2 and 8 kW of electricity to be available.

Recognizing the value of moving to a 48 V system, Tier-1 automotive electronics manufacturers produce GaN-based 48 V – 14 V bi-directional DC-DC power supplies to accommodate this new electrical architecture while maintaining compatibility with legacy 14 V systems. Today's simplest, lowest cost, and most efficient solution is the GaN FET-based buck/boost converter, such as the EPC9170.

This APEC demo shows the convergence of this trend with a bi-directional demo using both the EPC9149 and EPC9170.

For assistance with your 48 V designs, Ask a GaN Expert