Electric power conversion

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In electrical engineering, power engineering, and the electric power industry, power conversion is converting electric energy from one form to another such as converting between AC and DC; or changing the voltage or frequency; or some combination of these. A power converter is an electrical or electro-mechanical device for converting electrical energy. This could be as simple as a transformer to change the voltage of AC power, but also includes far more complex systems. The term can also refer to a class of electrical machinery that is used to convert one frequency of alternating current into another frequency.

Power conversion systems often incorporate redundancy and voltage regulation.

One way of classifying power conversion systems is according to whether the input and output are alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).

DC power conversion[edit]

DC to DC[edit]

The following devices can convert DC to DC:[further explanation needed]

DC to AC[edit]

The following devices can convert DC to AC:[further explanation needed]

AC power conversion[edit]

AC to DC[edit]

The following devices can convert AC to DC:[further explanation needed]

AC to AC[edit]

The following devices can convert AC to AC:[further explanation needed]

Other systems[edit]

There are also devices and methods to convert between power systems designed for single and three-phase operation.

The standard power voltage and frequency varies from country to country and sometimes within a country. In North America and northern South America it is usually 120 volt, 60 hertz (Hz), but in Europe, Asia, Africa and many other parts of the world, it is usually 230 volt, 50 Hz.[1] Aircraft often use 400 Hz power internally, so 50 Hz or 60 Hz to 400 Hz frequency conversion is needed for use in the ground power unit used to power the airplane while it is on the ground. Conversely, internal 400 Hz internal power may be converted to 50 Hz or 60 Hz for convenience power outlets available to passengers during flight.

Certain specialized circuits can also be considered power converters, such as the flyback transformer subsystem powering a CRT, generating high voltage at approximately 15 kHz.

Consumer electronics usually include an AC adapter (a type of power supply) to convert mains-voltage AC current to low-voltage DC suitable for consumption by microchips. Consumer voltage converters (also known as "travel converters") are used when travelling between countries that use ~120 V versus ~240 V AC mains power. (There are also consumer "adapters" which merely form an electrical connection between two differently shaped AC power plugs and sockets, but these change neither voltage nor frequency.)

Why use transformers in power converters[edit]

Transformers are used in power converters to incorporate:

  • Electrical isolation
  • Voltage step-down or step up

The secondary circuit is floating, when you touch the secondary circuit, you merely drag its potential to your body potential or the earth potential. There will be no current flowing through your body. That's why you can use your cellphone safely when it is being charged, even if your cellphone has a metal shell and it is connected to the secondary circuit.

Operating at high frequency and supplying low power, power converters have much smaller transformers as compared with those of fundamental frequency, high power applications. Usually, in power systems, transformers transmit power simultaneously, no charge! The current in the primary winding of a transformer plays two roles:

  • It sets up the mutual flux in accordance with Ampere's law.
  • It balances the demagnetizing effect of the load current in the secondary winding.

Flyback converter's transformer works differently, like an inductor. In each cycle, flyback converter's transformer first gets charged then releases its energy to the load. Accordingly, flyback converter's transformer air gap has two functions. It not only determines inductance, but also stores energy. For flyback converter, the transformer gap can have the function of energy transmission through cycles of charging and discharging.

The core's relative permeability can be > 1,000, even > 10,000. While the air gap features much lower permeability, accordingly has higher energy density.

See also[edit]


  • Abraham I. Pressman (1997). Switching Power Supply Design. McGraw-Hill. ISBN 0-07-052236-7.
  • Ned Mohan, Tore M. Undeland, William P. Robbins (2002). Power Electronics: Converters, Applications, and Design. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-22693-9.
  • Fang Lin Luo, Hong Ye, Muhammad H. Rashid (2005). Digital Power Electronics and Applications. Elsevier. ISBN 0-12-088757-6.
  • Fang Lin Luo, Hong Ye (2004). Advanced DC/DC Converters. CRC Press. ISBN 0-8493-1956-0.
  • Mingliang Liu (2006). Demystifying Switched-Capacitor Circuits. Elsevier. ISBN 0-7506-7907-7.

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