FPGA Technology and Software IP in Power Electronics Applications

OPAL-RT and Real-Time Simulation of Electric Motor Drives

FPGA technology in power electronics application is not only a matter of glue logic or system-on-a-chip platform but is also a matter of high-performance computing for real-time simulators of electric motor drives and any dynamic systems.

The use of FPGA in high-performance computing is not new: many applications have benefitted of the accelerated computing capabilities of those devices enabled by their parallelism capabilities, such as DNA sequencing and financial services. Since power electronics applications are typical fast-dynamic, complex and non-linear application, there might have a natural interest there to exploit accelerated computing platforms to simulate those systems in real-time.

This is exactly what OPAL-RT, a Montreal-based company, is doing : FPGA-based real-time simulators for power electronics applications. Their products enable system designers to quickly, safely and cheaply test their designs on a virtual plant. A typical example would be a PMSM-based system motor control designers that want to test his algorithms on many size of motors (2kW-5kW-15 kW) without having to plug its controller on a “real” motor : this designer can then plug its controller on a OPAL-RT “virtual” motor and test its motor control algorithm at a very early stage in its project (before having the real system protype available for example). The model of those “virtual” motors can be based on standard analytical equations or based on JMAG finite element analysis.

This type of technology opens a very broad range of new possibilities in the design of power electronics systems.