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Ultracapacitors Power UPS Applications, Prevent Billion-Dollar Losses

Back in December 2011, we predicted backup power for uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) would be one of the trending ultracapacitor applications in 2012. Well, here we are almost a year later, and we’re seeing more traction in the area due to the growing need to protect electronics from power instability and continued adoption of UPS in regions with unreliable electricity grids. UPS systems provide ride-through during short-term power disturbances, and using ultracapacitors protects against voltage disruptions during this time. Ultracapacitors ensure a consistent power supply to medical equipment, server memory and other mission-critical applications. In fact, more than 90 percent of power disturbances last for less than one second, so the UPS can provide the necessary ride-through for the brief disturbance. Ultracapacitors are the ideal solution for this, as they provide quick, high bursts of power that power the UPS.

Choosing the Right Energy Storage Device

Design engineers choose ultracapacitors, also known as supercapacitors, for UPS applications because the energy storage devices can handle power losses and provide ride-through during a drop in voltage. The UPS then provides instantaneous protection for a brief amount of time, thereby protecting various applications with a smooth and continuous input voltage. Supercapacitors consistently outperform batteries for energy storage. Supercapacitors can handle high charge and discharge rates, have a long lifespan with low maintenance requirements, and can tolerate a wide temperature range – +70 degrees Celsius to -40 degrees Celsius – making for a reliable energy source. In contrast, the lifespan of batteries used in UPS applications remains short, so maintenance and product replacement requirements are more frequent.

Improving Server Efficiency

IT teams must keep server applications running to provide memory and power backup. Power outages are one of the most common disasters that IT teams face, so teams strive to prevent any loss of data during a loss of power. Ideally, all critical hardware will run on UPS solutions, which provide enough ride-through power until the power source stabilizes, or for an organization to transfer to its alternate disaster prevention plan. Computers and networking systems are integral to consumers and corporations, and businesses simply cannot afford any downtime. Implementing ultracapacitors into a UPS system allows IT teams to provide short-term power during an outage or disruption, and then transition to an alternate power source or shut down properly, not abruptly.

Supercapacitors provide memory and power backup for redundant array of independent disk (RAID) server applications. They handle spikes in power supply and increase server efficiency. Ultracapacitors are an onboard, miniature UPS for server memory installed directly on RAM chips. They provide short-term ride-through, allowing for the storage of memory that is in cache. Outages in these applications can cost up to millions of dollars each minute, so the ultracapacitor plays an integral role in protecting the RAM from power spikes and providing the necessary power to the memory during voltage disruptions. New ways to improve server efficiency are top of mind for IT teams, and ultracapacitors are quickly replacing batteries for memory and UPS power backups.

Protecting against Power Disturbances

The frequency in which brownouts and power outages occur is increasing, and the causes of power outages are numerous: storms, faults at power stations, system overloading and human error. This creates a higher demand for backup power solutions, especially for applications such as data centers, telecommunication equipment, high-value factory production lines, computer servers or hospitals where loss of power is likely to be detrimental. Power outages cost the U.S. up to $100 billion each year, so designers and engineers recognize the importance of preventing against any disturbances. These industries rely on the backup power provided by UPS and on the ultracapacitors often used as the energy storage solution.

Ultracapacitors prevent power loss either for the entire factory or at an individual equipment level in markets such as telecommunications, micro grid, smart grid, food and silicon production, hospitals, metal and glass production and pharmaceuticals. The power provided can prevent computer glitches, interrupted calls, assembly line disruption or equipment malfunction. With a low equivalent series resistance (ESR), supercapacitors provide higher efficiency and power capabilities. ESR measures the resistance within the capacitor. A lower rating means the cell is more efficient, which boosts power by a parallel amount. Ultracapacitors’ long lifespan of up to 15 years cost only one-third of the lifecycle price of lead-acid batteries, most of which have a lifespan of only five years.

System designers and engineers turn to ultracapacitors to improve UPS solutions and to keep factories, servers and other applications running on a smooth power supply. This is particularly important in areas of unstable grid power, where dips in power or outages are more common.

Jeff Colton is vice president of sales, North America at Ioxus.  He is responsible for managing and growing the company’s North American sales operations in multiple alternative energy sectors. Previously, Jeff held executive roles at companies including General Electric Corporation, Sanyo Electric Corporation and Saft Battery Corporation. Jeff can be contacted at jcolton@ioxus.com or 858-663-1609.

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