1 Feb 2014

ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT POWER INVERTER SYSTEM.


A power inverter, or inverter, is an electronic device or circuitry that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). 

The input voltage, output voltage and frequency, and overall power handling, are dependent on the design of the specific device or circuitry. 

A power inverter can be entirely electronic or may be a combination of mechanical effects (such as a rotary apparatus) and electronic circuitry. Static inverters do not use moving parts in the conversion process.
Typical applications for power inverters include:
  • Portable consumer devices that allow the user to connect a battery, or set of batteries, to the device to produce AC power to run various electrical items such as lights, televisions, kitchen appliances, and power tools.
  • Use in power generation systems such as electric utility companies or solar generating systems to convert DC power to AC power.
  • Use within any larger electronic system where an engineering need exists for deriving an AC source from a DC source.

Input and output

Input voltage

A typical power inverter device or circuit will require a relatively stable DC power source capable of supplying enough current for the intended overall power handling of the inverter. Possible DC power sources include: rechargeable batteries, DC power supplies operating off of the power company line, and solar cells. The inverter does not produce any power, the power is provided by the DC source. The inverter translates the form of the power from direct current to an alternating current waveform.

The level of the needed input voltage depends entirely on the design and purpose of the inverter. In many smaller consumer and commercial inverters a 12V DC input is popular because of the wide availability of powerful rechargeable 12V lead acid batteries which can be used as the DC power source.

Output waveform

An inverter can produce square wave, modified sine wave, pulsed sine wave, or sine wave depending on circuit design. The two dominant commercialized waveform types of inverters as of 2007 are modified sine wave and sine wave.

There are two basic designs for producing household plug-in voltage from a lower-voltage DC source, the first of which uses a switching boost converter to produce a higher-voltage DC and then converts to AC. The second method converts DC to AC at battery level and uses a line-frequency transformer to create the output voltage.

A power inverter device which produces a smooth sinusoidal AC waveform is referred to as a sine wave inverter. To more clearly distinguish from "modified sine wave" or other creative terminology, the phrase pure sine wave inverter is sometimes used.

In situations involving power inverter devices which substitute for standard line power, a sine wave output is extremely desirable because the vast majority of electric plug in products and appliances are engineered to work well with the standard electric utility power which is a true sine wave.

At present, sine wave inverters tend to be more complex and have significantly higher cost than a modified sine wave type of the same power handling.

Modified sine wave

The terminology "modified sine wave" has come into use and refers to an output waveform that is a useful rough approximation of a sine wave for power translation purposes.

The waveform in commercially available modified-sine-wave inverters is a square wave with a pause before the polarity transition, which only needs to cycle through a three-position switch that outputs forward, off, and reverse output at the pre-determined frequency. The peak voltage to RMS voltage do not maintain the same relationship as for a sine wave. The DC bus voltage may be actively regulated or the "on" and "off" times can be modified to maintain the same RMS value output up to the DC bus voltage to compensate for DC bus voltage variation.

The ratio of on to off time can be adjusted to vary the RMS voltage while maintaining a constant frequency with a technique called PWM. Harmonic spectrum in the output depends on the width of the pulses and the modulation frequency. When operating induction motors, voltage harmonics is not of great concern, however harmonic distortion in the current waveform introduces additional heating, and can produce pulsating torques.

Numerous electric equipment will operate quite well on modified sine wave power inverter devices, especially any load that is resistive in nature such as a traditional incandescent light bulb.
Most AC motors will run on MSW inverters with an efficiency reduction of about 20% due to the harmonic content.

Other waveforms

By definition there is no restriction on the type of AC waveform an inverter might produce that would find use in a specific or special application.

Output frequency

The AC output frequency of a power inverter device is often the same as the standard power line frequency, for example 60 or 50 cycles per second.
If the output of the device or circuit is to be further conditioned (say stepped up by a follow on transformer) then the frequency may be much higher for good transformer efficiency.

Output voltage

The AC output voltage of a power inverter device is often the same as the standard power line voltage, such as household 120VAC or 240VAC. This allows the inverter to power numerous types of equipment designed to operate off the standard line power.

The designed for output voltage is often provided as a regulated output. That is, changes in the load the inverter is driving will not result in output voltage change from the inverter.
In a sophisticated inverter, the output voltage may be selectable or even continuously variable.

Output power

A power inverter will often have an overall power rating expressed in watts or kilowatts. This describes the power that will be available to the device the inverter is driving and, indirectly, the power that will be needed from the DC source. Smaller popular consumer and commercial devices designed to mimic line power typically range from 150 to 3000 watts.

Not all inverter applications are primarily concerned with brute power delivery, in some cases the frequency and or waveform properties are used by the follow on circuit or device.

Applications

DC power source utilization

Inverter designed to provide 115 VAC from the 12 VDC source provided in an automobile. The unit shown provides up to 1.2 amperes of alternating current, or enough to power two sixty watt light bulbs.

An inverter converts the DC electricity from sources such as batteries or fuel cells to AC electricity. The electricity can be at any required voltage; in particular it can operate AC equipment designed for mains operation, or rectified to produce DC at any desired voltage.

Uninterruptible power supplies

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) uses batteries and an inverter to supply AC power when main power is not available. When main power is restored, a rectifier supplies DC power to recharge the batteries.

Electric motor speed control

Inverter circuits designed to produce a variable output voltage range are often used within motor speed controllers. The DC power for the inverter section can be derived from a normal AC wall outlet or some other source. Control and feedback circuitry is used to adjust the final output of the inverter section which will ultimately determine the speed of the motor operating under its mechanical load. Motor speed control needs are numerous and include things like: industrial motor driven equipment, electric vehicles, rail transport systems, and power tools. (See related: variable-frequency drive)

Power grid

Grid-tied inverters are designed to feed into the electric power distribution system. They transfer synchronously with the line and have as little harmonic content as possible. They also need a means of detecting the presence of utility power for safety reasons, so as not to continue to dangerously feed power to the grid during a power outage.

Solar

A solar inverter can be fed into a commercial electrical grid or used by an off-grid electrical network. Solar inverters have special functions adapted for use with photovoltaic arrays, including maximum power point tracking and anti-islanding protection. Micro-inverters convert direct current from individual solar panels into alternating current for the electric grid. They are grid tie designs by default.

Induction heating

Inverters convert low frequency main AC power to higher frequency for use in induction heating. To do this, AC power is first rectified to provide DC power. The inverter then changes the DC power to high frequency AC power.

Basic designs

In one simple inverter circuit, DC power is connected to a transformer through the center tap of the primary winding. A switch is rapidly switched back and forth to allow current to flow back to the DC source following two alternate paths through one end of the primary winding and then the other. The alternation of the direction of current in the primary winding of the transformer produces alternating current (AC) in the secondary circuit.

The electromechanical version of the switching device includes two stationary contacts and a spring supported moving contact. The spring holds the movable contact against one of the stationary contacts and an electromagnet pulls the movable contact to the opposite stationary contact. The current in the electromagnet is interrupted by the action of the switch so that the switch continually switches rapidly back and forth. This type of electromechanical inverter switch, called a vibrator or buzzer, was once used in vacuum tube automobile radios. A similar mechanism has been used in door bells, buzzers and tattoo machines.

As they became available with adequate power ratings, transistors and various other types of semiconductor switches have been incorporated into inverter circuit designs. Certain ratings, especially for large systems (many kilowatts) use thyristors (SCR). SCRS provide large power handling capability in a semiconductor device, and can readily be controlled over a variable firing range.

The switch in the simple inverter described above, when not coupled to an output transformer, produces a square voltage waveform due to its simple off and on nature as opposed to the sinusoidal waveform that is the usual waveform of an AC power supply. Using Fourier analysis, periodic waveforms are represented as the sum of an infinite series of sine waves. The sine wave that has the same frequency as the original waveform is called the fundamental component. The other sine waves, called harmonics, that are included in the series have frequencies that are integral multiples of the fundamental frequency.

There are many different power circuit topologies and control strategies used in inverter designs. Different design approaches address various issues that may be more or less important depending on the way that the inverter is intended to be used.

The issue of waveform quality can be addressed in many ways. Capacitors and inductors can be used to filter the waveform. If the design includes a transformer, filtering can be applied to the primary or the secondary side of the transformer or to both sides. Low-pass filters are applied to allow the fundamental component of the waveform to pass to the output while limiting the passage of the harmonic components. If the inverter is designed to provide power at a fixed frequency, a resonant filter can be used. For an adjustable frequency inverter, the filter must be tuned to a frequency that is above the maximum fundamental frequency.

Since most loads contain inductance, feedback rectifiers or antiparallel diodes are often connected across each semiconductor switch to provide a path for the peak inductive load current when the switch is turned off. The antiparallel diodes are somewhat similar to the freewheeling diodes used in AC/DC converter circuits.

Early inverters

From the late nineteenth century through the middle of the twentieth century, DC-to-AC power conversion was accomplished using rotary converters or motor-generator sets (M-G sets). In the early twentieth century, vacuum tubes and gas filled tubes began to be used as switches in inverter circuits. The most widely used type of tube was the thyratron.

The origins of electromechanical inverters explain the source of the term inverter. Early AC-to-DC converters used an induction or synchronous AC motor direct-connected to a generator (dynamo) so that the generator's commutator reversed its connections at exactly the right moments to produce DC. A later development is the synchronous converter, in which the motor and generator windings are combined into one armature, with slip rings at one end and a commutator at the other and only one field frame. The result with either is AC-in, DC-out. With an M-G set, the DC can be considered to be separately generated from the AC; with a synchronous converter, in a certain sense it can be considered to be "mechanically rectified AC". Given the right auxiliary and control equipment, an M-G set or rotary converter can be "run backwards", converting DC to AC. Hence an inverter is an inverted converter.

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