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Exploring Power Conversion Based on Piezoelectrics: Converters, Components, and Capabilities


Friday, July 9, 2021

Location: EER 1.516

Jessica Boles
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Power electronics are integral to the advancement of transportation, renewable energy, manufacturing, healthcare, information technology, and many other major industries. These technologies increasingly demand power electronics with smaller volume, lighter weight, and lower cost, but such strides are commonly impeded by energy storage components, particularly magnetics. While magnetic components have been central to power electronics since the field's inception, their inherent challenges at small scales motivate investigation of alternative energy storage mechanisms for future miniaturized power conversion. Piezoelectrics, which store energy in the mechanical compliance and inertia of a piezoelectric material, are one such prospect; piezoelectrics show immense promise for high power density and efficiency at small scales.

In this talk, we explore how we can leverage piezoelectrics to enable substantial miniaturization of power electronics. We first identify practical dc-dc converter implementations that most efficiently utilize piezoelectrics as sole energy storage components, without magnetics. Then, we turn to the piezoelectric components themselves and evaluate piezoelectric materials, vibration modes, and geometries based on efficiency and power density capabilities. We further discuss how these capabilities scale to small sizes and how piezoelectric-based converters may pave the way for major advances in converter miniaturization.


Jessica Boles is a PhD candidate and Collamore-Rogers Fellow in the Power Electronics Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where her research spans converter architectures, passive components, and control techniques. Her most recent work focuses on piezoelectric-based power conversion, which received a Best Paper Award at the 2019 IEEE Workshop on Control and Modeling for Power Electronics. She received the B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) in 2015 and 2017, respectively, where she developed a battery energy storage system emulator for a power-converter-based grid testbed. Outside of research, she has led several initiatives for empowering women in engineering and facilitating healthy research advising relationships in academia.