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Designing Introductory, Hands-on, Open Source Power Electronics Lab Exercises

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

New ECE Laboratories

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

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Paper Authors


Mark William Thoren Analog Devices Inc.

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Mark Thoren joined Analog Devices (Linear Technology at the time) in 2001 as an applications engineer supporting precision data converters. He's since held various roles in mixed-signal applications involving training, technical publications, and customer support. Mark recently joined Analog Devices' System Development Group, where he works on reference designs and developing material for the ADI University Program. He holds a BS in Agricultural Mechanical Engineering and MS in Electrical Engineering, both from University of Maine.

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Taufik Taufik California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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Dr. Taufik received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering with minor in Computer Science from Northern Arizona University in 1993, M.S. in Electrical Engineering from University of Illinois, Chicago in 1995, and Doctor of Engineering in Electrical Engineering from Cleveland State University in 1999. He joined the Electrical Engineering department at Cal Poly State University in 1999 where he is currently a Full Professor. He is a Senior Member of IEEE and he has done work for several companies including Capstone Microturbine, Rockwell Automation, Picker International, San Diego Gas and Electric, Sempra Energy, NV5, Diodes Inc., and Enerpro Inc. His areas of interests include power electronics and power systems.

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Power Electronics faces stiff competition from other electrical and computer engineering disciplines. The price point and barrier to entry for incorporating professional-grade software development tools, computing hardware (such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi), and programmable logic hardware into hands-on lab exercises can be as low as zero, and 100$USD can equip a student with development platforms that are commonly used in industry; this is also affordable to the ambitious student that would rather own their own equipment.

There are numerous challenges in designing power lab exercises that illustrate textbook concepts on the lab bench, at low cost, and requiring only basic test equipment. For contrast - it is possible to illustrate analog signal processing concepts by building a slow, stable circuit on a breadboard, and scaling to higher frequencies on paper, once the concept is understood. But this model is difficult to apply even to the most basic power conversion circuits; while signal processing functions are often available as discrete components, most modern power circuits are highly integrated out of necessity. While it is possible to base a lab exercise on an off-the-shelf monolithic power converter, much of the operation is hidden, and quality oscilloscopes and current probes are out of reach for many schools.

This paper presents the development of several lab exercises in power electronics that are designed to provide hands-on, intuitive experience with concepts such as thermal resistance, efficiency, inductor current waveforms, and operation of boost and buck converters, early in a student’s academic career. Emphasis is placed on simplicity, low-cost, and illustrating concepts, rather than on electrical performance. A free and open-source model for distribution, review, and improvement is followed, allowing labs to be tailored to the needs of specific classes, and examples of improvements made as a result of student experience in hands-on workshops in the lab are discussed.

Assessment is based on student and instructor feedback from informal workshops given at local universities. Future assessment may include student course selection in subsequent semesters, and ultimately, students’ choice of concentration for graduate studies.

Thoren, M. W., & Taufik, T. (2020, June), Designing Introductory, Hands-on, Open Source Power Electronics Lab Exercises Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34408

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