Use of a popular power electronics platform in a control systems laboratory

Document Type

Conference Presentation


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Conference Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings

Date of Presentation



The "power-pole board", developed at the University of Minnesota (UMN), and commercialized by Hirel Systems, is widely used in U.S. universities for power electronics laboratory experiments. The board can be configured as a buck-converter, boost converter, buck-boost converter, flyback converter, or forward converter. A lab manual developed at UMN for use with the power-pole board is available in the public domain. The manual also includes experiments on closed-loop control of the buck converter; closed loop control allows the output voltage of the converter to be regulated and remain immune to variations in the input voltage or converter load. Design of the controller in the UMN lab manual is based on the the K-factor approach (a frequency domain technique that involves a number of derivations and calculations pertaining to achievement of a desired phase margin). University of the Pacific was a member of an 82 university consortium (led by the University of Minnesota) that was supported by a Department of Energy grant to "revitalize electric power engineering education by state-of-the-art laboratories". This paper describes how the grant enabled University of the Pacific to implement a new power electronics course and lab using the power pole board and publicly available UMN developed materials. The paper also describes how the power pole board was used to support the laboratory experience in a control systems course without any additional expense for lab equipment. It describes how Proportional + Integral (PI) controllers can be designed for the power pole board buck converter. The design approach (using Matlab to design the controller) is simpler than the K-factor method, and provides instantaneous information on the transient response of the closed-loop system. The paper also shows how PI controllers can be implemented on the power pole board (this information is not available in the UMN lab manual, and could prove useful to the community of power pole board users). The power pole board (a relatively low cost investment of about $1250 per board) has enabled University of the Pacific to provide meaningful lab experience in power electronics and control systems. Student feedback on the lab experience in these two courses has been positive and is presented.



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