Power electronics is the application of electronics to the control and conversion of electric power.
The first high-power electronic devices were made using mercury-arc valves. In modern systems, the conversion is performed with semiconductor switching devices such as diodes, thyristors, and power transistors such as the power MOSFET and IGBT. In contrast to electronic systems concerned with the transmission and processing of signals and data, substantial amounts of electrical energy are processed in power electronics. An AC/DC converter (rectifier) is the most typical power electronics device found in many consumer electronic devices, e.g. television sets, personal computers, battery chargers, etc. The power range is typically from tens of watts to several hundred watts. In industry, a common application is the variable speed drive (VSD) that is used to control an induction motor. The power range of VSDs starts from a few hundred watts and ends at tens of megawatts.
The power conversion systems can be classified according to the type of the input and output power:
- AC to DC (rectifier)
- DC to AC (inverter)
- DC to DC (DC-to-DC converter)
- AC to AC (AC-to-AC converter)