May 26, 2014

One Million Dollar Prize for Next Generation of Power Inverters

Google recently announced their so-called Little Box Challenge, a $1 million prize to develop the next generation of power inverters. If you want to know what power inverter is, here is the basics. Unfortunately, they did not provide any technical details on what exactly they are looking for. The referred website http://www.littleboxchallenge.com/ as of today provides zero useful info either. Hopefully, they will clarify the competition shortly.

May 23, 2014

Another Portable Generator Stolen

Here is another reason to look for a permanently installed standby generator- a portable one can easily be stolen. Here is a video on how two guys took a 300-lb device. By the way, in Louisiana, flashlights, batteries, portable generators and other emergency supplies are exempt from the state sales tax this weekend.  They give Louisiana residents a chance to get ready for storm season before the Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1.

January 30, 2014

Power Supply Seminar 2012/13 Textbooks Online

Those who missed Texas Instruments latest 2012-2013 power supply design seminar can now download all the materials here. This time they archived online both the manuals and the presentations, which are quite handy. Unfortunately, TI is doing a pretty good job making it very hard to find these files in their website. If you want to read past TI (formerly Unitrode) seminar manuals beginning 1983, I listed them all here. I keep maintaining and updating these links for over a decade now. Originally I got the list of their topics (which at that time was much shorter) from one of TI application engineers who interviewed me for a job. I did not get the job back then, but I got a list of the links. It was a good deal. (-:

December 10, 2013

Thieves Stealing 200-lb Portable Generator

One of the disadvantages of a portable generator is it can be easily stolen. This video footage shows how three suspects stolen a 200-pound generator in 52 seconds.

July 25, 2013

Subaru Portable Generators Recalled Due to Fire Hazard

Robin America recalled more than 4,500 Subaru portable gasoline generators because of possible fuel leak. The recalled models are SGX3500, SGX5000 and SGX7500 . These units were made in China for Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., of Tokyo. Read more and find affected serial numbers here.

May 19, 2013

Back-Up Power for Gas Stations in NY

Governor Cuomo proposed new legislation according to which all gas stations within a half-mile of highway exits and hurricane evacuation routes will be required to have a transfer switch installed by March 1, 2014 and  deploy a generator within 24 hours of a blackout. This requirement would apply to about one-third of all NYS gas stations.

In addition, the chains with 10 or more stations will be required to install a transfer switch for an additional 50% of their stations by March 1, 2016, and must activate a generator within 48 hours of losing power during an emergency. This requirement applies to an additional 15% of NY gas stations.

Finally, as of March 1, 2014, all newly constructed gas stations or the stations that have major renovations will be required to have a transfer switch or back-up generator installed.

Cuomo said “New York State must learn the lessons from Superstorm Sandy so that we are better prepared for the future”. Really? I wonder if governor followed the news during Sandy. The main problem was lack of gasoline rather than loss of power by gas stations. How would the stations located out of town and not connected to natural gas system fuel their generators when they had neither gasoline or diesel? Of course they could use propane generators, but again, the stations located far away from cities and towns will have hard time refilling their propane tanks during a major disaster. If the proposed bill will pass, we will pay more at the pump because the stations will pass down onto us the cost of implementing the new regulation. As usual, our governor is trying to gain cheap popularity.

May 2, 2013

Top Paying Engineering Majors in 2013

According to a recent survey, college graduates with major in Petroleum Engineering have the highest average starting salary of $93,500.

Here are the ten top majors by starting salary:

Petroleum Engineering: $93,500
Computer Engineering: $71,700
Chemical Engineering: $67,600
Computer Science: $64,800
Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering: $64,400
Mechanical Engineering: $64,000
Electrical/Electronics and Communications Engineering: $63,400
Management Information Systems/Business: $63,100
Engineering Technology: $62,200
Finance: $57,400

Source: WSJ

January 6, 2013

Higher Distribution Voltage for Server Efficiency Increase

Several years ago Google suggested an open standard for desktop PC power supplies with a single 12V rail instead of multiple rails. The point was the higher buss voltage the higher overall PC PSU efficiency.

This year Google power designers are going to present at DesignCon 2013 their strategies for reducing energy losses in servers, including DC-DC regulator architectures as well as higher voltage distribution. Google apparently is going to make a case that higher distribution voltage levels improve overall conversion efficiency. Obviously, raising the buss voltage will lower conduction losses. On the other hand, switching losses in downstream DC-DC regulators will increase. In addition to this, you will need to use higher voltage MOSFETs whose characteristics generally degrade with their rated voltage. That's why it will be interesting to see their experimental results and  conclusions on optimal distribution level.

November 3, 2012

Recall of Champion Portable Generators Sold at Costco

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a voluntary recall of about 8,600 portable generators manufactured by Champion Power Equipment, of Santa Fe Springs, CA. The cause of the recall is gasoline can leak from the generator's carburetor, posing a fire hazard. There have been 11 reports of fuel leaking from the generators, including eight reports of the generators catching fire. The recalled model numbers are 41332 (8250 watt) and 41532 (9000 watt). These models were made in China and sold at Costco.

October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy- Interactive Map with Latest Information

Google has created an interactive map for Hurricane Sandy. You can zoom in the map, select a location and find the latest information on the storm location, forecast track, shelter addresses, power outages, and other related data. Just check or uncheck options in the layers menu. You can also switch between a map and a satellite view. And if you lost power, remember- never run a portable generator indoors and in direct rain.