Google-backed startup zaps electricity waste

Feb 23, 2011
A Google-backed startup on Wednesday came out of "stealth mode" with a way to dramatically cut the amount of electricity wasted by data centers, solar panels, hybrid cars and more. Transphorm has made a module that can cut by as much as 90 percent the amount of electricity lost while converting currents in anything from laptops to elevator motors and massive computer server farms.

A Google-backed startup on Wednesday came out of "stealth mode" with a way to dramatically cut the amount of electricity wasted by data centers, solar panels, hybrid cars and more.

Transphorm has made a module that can cut by as much as 90 percent the amount of electricity lost while converting currents in anything from laptops to elevator motors and massive computer server farms.

Figures cited by the startup indicated that inefficient electric power conversion in the US power grid wastes the equivalent of the output of 318 coal-fired power plants and costs the nation's economy $40 billion a year.

"What everyone is doing is paying a hidden tax because of the inefficiency of power conversions," Transphorm chief executive Umesh Mishrasaid said during a presentation with Google Ventures executives at the Internet firm's campus in the California city of Mountain View.

"Why put up with needless energy waste in every electrical system and device, when we can quickly and cost-effectively design products that are inherently energy efficient?" he asked rhetorically.

Ventures led a recently completed round of funding that raised $20 million for Transphorm, which brings to $38 million the total amount investors have pumped into the California-based startup since it launched four years ago.

Transphorm specializes in custom-designed modules to be built into "virtually any electrical system" from consumer gadgets to industrial motors to electric cars or solar panels.

The company will unveil its first product at a conference taking place in Texas next month.

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stealthc
1.5 / 5 (4) Feb 23, 2011
Just what we need, nsa assets running your power grid. LMAO.

Grid distribution is retarded, wasteful. 30% power loss due to resistance and the only thing that can deal with it is specialized cables that require super-cooling. It's best to make everyone responsible for generating their own power and feeding themselves. What a bunch of useless governments to encourage otherwise.
dankgoat
5 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2011
Instead of DC to AC and then to DC again a lot of people with solar panels get DC appliances, so much power is lost as heat when a transformer converts from one to the other and back again.


First, transformers do not convert AC to DC or visa versa. Transformers convert one voltage to another, such as the ~200KV in the overhead power lines to the common 120 V in your wall plug (in US).

Transphorm is focusing on exactly this, hence their name. I used to work for Umesh in his UCSB lab. They make transistors and transformers from the highly durable Gallium Nitride (as opposed to Silicon for your semiconductor). These devices can handle high power, high frequency performance better than others (which is found in powergrid transformers as and communications tech such as cell towers).

You're right that a lot of power is lost in transformers and this is what the Transphorm aims to fix. The tech is legit and a lot of smart people are behind it.
Bob_Kob
2 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2011
He's right in the fact that homes should be fed DC now. There is no reason to use AC other than powering antiquated lighting and AC motors.
Grallen
3 / 5 (2) Feb 24, 2011
AC is safer and easier to step up and down. That's why it won in the first place.
88HUX88
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2011
the battle of the currents was waged a long time ago, everyone should be familiar with it, but what this article doesn't say is how the saving happens, or what principle is used. Certainly by now we should have junked linear power supplies for appliances in favour of switched mode. "By as much as" is as descriptive as "up to" which can also include the figure zero. More information please.
dankgoat
5 / 5 (1) Feb 24, 2011
Their website says a little more but yes, they haven't explained to anyone outside of investors in detail. But basically, GaN power switches (transistors and such) are more efficient than the current tech. GaN is expensive but in terms of the power grid it is worth it.

Also, dhughes, all appliances in home are DC. Your power supplies are a mix between a transformer to step down the voltage and a rectifier to convert AC to DC.

Bob_Kob, why should homes be fed DC? AC has many advantages, both in safety and ease, in terms of transportation and generation.
Phyvyn
not rated yet Feb 25, 2011
Please be careful with your DC. DC is only best for very short permanent runs. AC at higher voltages can actually be safer and more power efficient in careful designs and allows more flexibility. A lower duty cycle and two way currents actually allow cooler power transfer and less wear on the conductors. Please research your need carefully and always challenge existing designs with solutions that are more over-designed for safety and _overall_ reduced cost of maintenance.