Climate change is regarded as one of the biggest challenges facing society. Only a radical change of course in climate protection can halt this trend. A climate protection agreement in which the countries bindingly undertook under international law to limit global warming to a maximum of two degrees came into force in 2016.
In order to achieve that target, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change believes that radical changes are required in power generation, mobility, agriculture, industrial processes and urban infrastructure. Effective climate protection requires environmentally-friendly and sustainable technologies.
Any rethink of how to protect the climate stands or falls by whether we bring about a rethink as part of the energy transition. An energy transition with a viable future can only be achieved if we act in a sustainable and climate-friendly way – from power generation to its consumption. Microelectronics makes a crucial contribution to this. It helps supply energy to the world’s steadily growing population efficiently and in an eco-friendly way. Constantly growing demand for electrical energy can no longer be met from fossil fuels in the future to the same extent as in the past. That’s why renewable sources that don’t emit any CO2 into the environment are increasing in importance. One key lies in the use of wind and solar farms.
Coal, gas and nuclear power plants have a steam turbine that converts thermal into mechanical energy, which in turn drives a generator that produces electricity. The speed at which the steam turbine rotates is regulated so that the electricity generated is adapted to the grid frequency. Only then can it be fed into the power grid. Since wind and solar farms have no steam turbine, and the wind’s strength and sun’s intensity vary, inverters and numerous power semiconductors are required to ensure a constant generator output. As a result, electricity from renewable energies can be fed into the grid. Infineon is playing its part in this segment by delivering power electronic systems.
Electric motors are now at the heart of many systems as our world becomes increasingly automated. Whether in cranes, conveyor belts or robots, they’re a vital part of today’s industrial landscape. They therefore need a lot of electricity. Electric motors already consume more than 25 percent of global electricity requirements. There is huge potential to save energy here. Electronic regulation of a motor’s speed means its output can be adapted precisely to the current needs – and that reduces power consumption. This kind of variable-speed motor controller requires numerous semiconductors. Infineon provides support here with its portfolio and expertise in the field of state-of-the-art semiconductor systems.
And not only in industry. There’s also potential to make appliances in private households more economical. The principle is similar to that of industrial electrical motors: A motor controller regulates the speed, depending on utilization and the power required. Sensors integrated in the dishwasher, washing machine or refrigerator measure values such as temperature, humidity or motor speed. A microcontroller uses that data to calculate the ideal speed. Power semiconductors interfacing with the motor strengthen the controller’s signals. The result: Power consumption in the household is reduced significantly.
One issue is inextricably linked with an eco-friendly, sustainable way of life: mobility. How will we get about in the future? The growth in the world’s population and increasing industrialization ensure greater demand for means of transport, of whatever kind. More and more of us want to travel by plane, rail or car. At the same time, the automotive industry has to meet strict requirements in order to reduce the pollutants emitted by their vehicles. One solution is cars with a hybrid and electric drive. These vehicles help ensure that we can stay mobile in the future, yet sharply decrease pollutant emissions.
E-vehicles are not only more environmentally-friendly, but also require less maintenance and fewer repairs. Fewer parts have to be replaced. The powertrain of electric vehicles is also far more efficient. Whereas the ratio between the energy that is fed in and can be used is a maximum of 45 percent for conventional combustion engines, an electric drive manages up to 90 percent. Electromobility is also a key component of tomorrow’s mobility, especially in the commercial vehicle segment. Electrically driven buses, trucks and construction vehicles mean far fewer emissions and less noise.
Data capture, transfer and processing as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and big data are further aspects on the way to a more climate-friendly way of life. That starts in our own four walls. IoT helps transform our apartment or house into a connected smart home. As a result, we can optimize energy management in private life. Energy guzzlers can be identified and replaced, while proactive maintenance of the washing machine and dishwasher can prevent defects. That also continues after you step out of the front door and set off for the smart city.
Traffic data can be analyzed in real time thanks to big data. As a result, traffic jams can be identified sooner and avoided more easily by the connected car taking an alternative route autonomously. Searching for an empty parking spot will consume less energy because autonomous vehicles can directly head for the next free place to park thanks to being connected to the infrastructure. Cities can make their infrastructures and energy systems smarter and more energy efficient with the aid of IoT and big data. Last but not least, that applies to how energy is generated, stored and distributed.
To make life in the future climate-friendly and sustainable with the aid of cutting-edge technologies, mobility, Industry 4.0, the smart home and communication in general must be connected to the Internet and with each other. The growing number of cyber attacks on this kind of connected infrastructure spells out just how vital security is in this context. Effective protection for electronic systems against data manipulation or cyber attacks is more important than ever. The identity of the person or device sending a message should be authenticated. Data and devices should be protected against unauthorized changes (integrity protection). Sensitive information should be kept secret and only authenticated devices or persons be allowed to read plain text. Cryptographic methods that enable precisely that and are optimized for various applications have been implemented in security solutions from Infineon. The latter range from security chips for complete IT infrastructures, including servers, to individual routers or tablets.