High-current inductors for high-power automotive DC-DC converters

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Lyons, Brendan
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University College Cork
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This thesis is focused on the investigation of magnetic materials for high-power dcdc converters in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles and the development of an optimized high-power inductor for a multi-phase converter. The thesis introduces the power system architectures for hybrid and fuel cell vehicles. The requirements for power electronic converters are established and the dc-dc converter topologies of interest are introduced. A compact and efficient inductor is critical to reduce the overall cost, weight and volume of the dc-dc converter and optimize vehicle driving range and traction power. Firstly, materials suitable for a gapped CC-core inductor are analyzed and investigated. A novel inductor-design algorithm is developed and automated in order to compare and contrast the various magnetic materials over a range of frequencies and ripple ratios. The algorithm is developed for foil-wound inductors with gapped CC-cores in the low (10 kHz) to medium (30 kHz) frequency range and investigates the materials in a natural-convection-cooled environment. The practical effects of frequency, ripple, air-gap fringing, and thermal configuration are investigated next for the iron-based amorphous metal and 6.5 % silicon steel materials. A 2.5 kW converter is built to verify the optimum material selection and thermal configuration over the frequency range and ripple ratios of interest. Inductor size can increase in both of these laminated materials due to increased airgap fringing losses. Distributing the airgap is demonstrated to reduce the inductor losses and size but has practical limitations for iron-based amorphous metal cores. The effects of the manufacturing process are shown to degrade the iron-based amorphous metal multi-cut core loss. The experimental results also suggest that gap loss is not a significant consideration in these experiments. The predicted losses by the equation developed by Reuben Lee and cited by Colonel McLyman are significantly higher than the experimental results suggest. Iron-based amorphous metal has better preformance than 6.5 % silicon steel when a single cut core and natural-convection-cooling are used. Conduction cooling, rather than natural convection, can result in the highest power density inductor. The cooling for these laminated materials is very dependent on the direction of the lamination and the component mounting. Experimental results are produced showing the effects of lamination direction on the cooling path. A significant temperature reduction is demonstrated for conduction cooling versus natural-convection cooling. Iron-based amorphous metal and 6.5% silicon steel are competitive materials when conduction cooled. A novel inductor design algorithm is developed for foil-wound inductors with gapped CC-cores for conduction cooling of core and copper. Again, conduction cooling, rather than natural convection, is shown to reduce the size and weight of the inductor. The weight of the 6.5 % silicon steel inductor is reduced by around a factor of ten compared to natural-convection cooling due to the high thermal conductivity of the material. The conduction cooling algorithm is used to develop high-power custom inductors for use in a high power multi-phase boost converter. Finally, a high power digitally-controlled multi-phase boost converter system is designed and constructed to test the high-power inductors. The performance of the inductors is compared to the predictions used in the design process and very good correlation is achieved. The thesis results have been documented at IEEE APEC, PESC and IAS conferences in 2007 and at the IEEE EPE conference in 2008.
Fuel cell vehicles , Hybrid vehicles , Inductors
Lyons, B. 2008. High-current inductors for high-power automotive DC-DC converters. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.