Steady As She Blows

Power electronics and exotic energy storage devices are making wind power steady enough to compete with conventional electricity sources

12 min read

In this season of discontent in the electricity business, only wind power seems to stand out as a global success story. While petroleum prices were convulsing in response to war and labor strife, and nuclear plants were stoking controversy in the Middle East and Asia, wind turbines were quietly becoming the fastest-growing energy source in the world. They now provide more than 31 000 MW of power, a total that has swelled by almost 30 percent in scarcely a year’s time and that keeps more than 200 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year. Wind power’s ascendance has been so stunning that advocates are now rallying around an idea that would have seemed preposterous just a couple of years ago: that the wind could supply 12 percent of the world’s electrical demand by 2020.

Impressive as the gains have been, it isn’t quite clear yet that the wind can blow away the developed world’s fossil-fuel dependence. One of the most important reasons is that clean, renewable wind power comes with a serious hitch: while conventional power plants yield a steady stream of electricity, wind turbines often ply turbulent gusts and therefore spit out an irregular stream of electricity that is tough for power grids to swallow.

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A Diamond "Blanket" Can Cool the Transistors Needed for 6G

Gallium nitride transistors have struggled to handle the thermal load of high-frequency electronics

4 min read
blue mountain of crystals with an inset of molecules on a pink background
Sarbanti Chowdhury/Stanford

High-power radio-frequency electronics are a hot commodity, both figuratively and literally. The transistors needed to amplify 5G and future 6G signals are struggling to handle the thermal load, causing a bottleneck in development. Engineers in the United States and England have teamed up to demonstrate a promising solution—swaddling individual transistors in a blanket of thermally conductive diamond to keep them cool.

“Thermal issues are currently one of the biggest bottlenecks that are plaguing any kind of microelectronics,” says team lead Srabanti Chowdhury, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. “We asked ourselves ‘can we perform device cooling at the very material level without paying a penalty in electrical performance?’”

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New Contactless ECG Continuously Monitors the Heart

Millimeter-wave radar device make electrode-less cardiovascular health tech possible

3 min read
Video still of a man lying down. A box shaped device on a pole sits above his body. To the left, a monitor displays ECG readings.

The researchers demonstrated an experimental setup for contactless ECG monitoring using millimeter-wave radar.

University of Science and Technology Of China/IEEE

This article is part of our exclusive IEEE Journal Watch series in partnership with IEEE Xplore.

More than 100 years after the technology was first developed, the electrocardiogram (ECG) remains the gold standard for measuring the electrical activity of the heart. However, an ECG currently requires electrodes to be attached on a person’s skin. Even the latest consumer technologies like the Apple Watch require a user seeking an ECG to touch a finger to the device’s protruding “digital crown,” forming a circuit across the user’s body, thereby enabling electrical signals across the heart to be measured.

However, researchers in China have reported the invention of a novel ECG technology that uses millimeter-wave radar and AI to infer an ECG signal, making the system completely contactless. Should the researchers’ initial promising results bear out, the millimeter-wave tech could inspire new applications based on a reliable and uninterrupted stream of heart health data.

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Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Modeling and simulation in Simulink and Simscape

1 min read
Designing Fuel Cell Systems Using System-Level Design

Design and simulate a fuel cell system for electric mobility. See by example how Simulink® and Simscape™ support multidomain physical modeling and simulation of fuel cell systems including thermal, gas, and liquid systems. Learn how to select levels of modeling fidelities to meet your needs at different development stages.