There is a growing demand for ever smaller components in our electronic devices. Our mobiles and PCs must contain more features and have greater speed, without becoming either heavier or bigger. Therefore, it attracted great interest when a group of researchers at DTU developed the prototype of what would become the world’s smallest power converter a couple of years ago. It ensures that the voltage from, for example, the battery or the electricity grid is converted into the voltage domain used by the various features in the mobile. As each feature most often requires its own power converter, a mobile may contain up to 15 of these, which should therefore preferably be as small as possible.
In addition to its diminutive size, the new power converter offers very high efficiency, and thus saves energy. The converter has a couple of other important advantages.
“Our new technology enables the integration of the converter electrical circuit on a silicon substrate. The silicon material is found naturally in large quantities and is therefore both inexpensive and sustainable to use. At the same time, it’s equally important that a substrate made from silicon prevents the formation of so-called ‘hotspots’ with very high temperatures, thanks to its higher thermal conductivity. This means that we don’t risk igniting, for example, the battery that is often part of the electronics,” says Ahmed Ammar, one of the three founders of Lotus Microsystems.
Many options for use
Ahmed Ammar met Yasser Nour and Hoa Thanh Le at DTU, where they together developed the new technology behind the small power converter. Several companies showed an interest in the first prototypes, which made the three of them decide to set up the company Lotus Microsystems in late 2020.
“We can see many opportunities for the use of our product. First of all, there’s the whole area for headphones, hearing aids, and other medical electronics, where size is a key parameter. The low weight also makes our power converter interesting for use in satellites or drones, for example,” says Yasser Nour.
In the long term, the company’s vision is that the converter is to form part of many of the electronic products we use in our everyday life and thus provide them with increased sustainability.
Innovative environment encourages spin-outs
At DTU Electrical Engineering—where the small power converter has been developed—there is great enthusiasm for the new company.
“It’s always nice when our research is used in society and helps create both new companies and jobs,” says Professor Michael A.E. Andersen.
Michael A.E. Andersen points out that the research conducted at universities often leads to new technological solutions, which can prove so viable that they can subsequently form the basis for a spin-out.
“In my part of DTU alone, we’ve contributed to 13 spin-outs and taken out more than 140 patents in the past 20 years. We’re very protective of our unique innovative environment, so this development will undoubtedly continue.”
Supplier to large Danish companies
Based on their strong academic competency in electronics and nanofabrication, Lotus Microsystems’ three founders are developing their product for sale and customizing it to different applications. After the company participated in Danish Tech Challenge in 2020—a growth programme for technology-heavy start-ups—it has also teamed up with Erik Stangerup, who is Chief Commercial Officer of the company.
“With his experience from his many years of employment in tech companies, Erik has the right insight to conduct the dialogue with our investors and potential customers,” says Ahmed Ammar.
Lotus Microsystems expects to launch its first product later this year. It will be a power converter for use in audio solutions such as speakers and amplifiers. The next step will be to develop a production design targeted at hearing aids and headphones, where especially the size of the power converter is important.
“We hope to be able to launch this product in early 2022 and to enter into agreements with some of the major Danish and international companies that are dominant in the global market for—in particular—hearing aids and headphones,” says Yasser Nour.
Photos: Lotus Microsystems