Cooling Electrical Goods and Electricity Networks

3 November 2011

The warmth of a laptop on your knee might be cosy on a winter's night but is cold comfort for your computer.

Dr Dylan Lu from the University of Sydney's School of Electrical and Information Engineering says heat radiating from electronic products is lost electricity that shortens the lifespan of electrical devices and damages electricity networks.

Dr Lu's research into improving the efficiency and quality of power conversion for consumer electronics and photovaltic power systems aims to increase the longevity lifespan of electrical goods and electricity grid hardware.

In Australia electricity from a standard power point has a voltage of 240V but the voltage required for most electrical devices is much lower e.g. 20V. To allow for the difference, conversion from AC to DC is required. This is the job of an AC adaptor.

"AC adaptors are typically 88 per cent efficient, which means 12 per cent of the electricity travelling through an adaptor is typically lost and stored as heat," says Dr Lu. "This explains why electrical appliances heat up when in use. I want to lift this efficiency rate to around 95 per cent to reduce overheating in appliances and improve their longevity.

In tandem with this research Dr Lu is looking at how AC adaptors draw power from an electricity network. Presently they do this in a distorted and erratic fashion which harms electricity grid components such as cables, connectors and power lines and interferes with other electrical equipment on the grid.

Dr Lu says the efficiency of AC adaptors and their impact on the electricity grid can be improved by reducing the number of components used to build adaptors and employing power quality improvement control. His work to date has seen adaptor efficiency increase to about 92 per cent. He hopes to get efficiency levels to 95 per cent before exploring his research's commercial potential.

Dr Lu's research is currently being explored under license by electronics companies in Australia and offshore. He was the 2011 recipient of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies' Dean's Award for research.