A visit to ELECRAMA 2014

C.P. Ravikumar

Texas Instruments

Vaibhav and I were at ELECRAMA 2014, which was organized during Jan 8-12, 2014 in Bangalore. This is an annual event organized by Indian Electrical and Electronics Manufacturer's Association. Some of the main themes in the conference were power generation, power distribution, alternate energy and power electronics. Interestingly, a lot of semiconductors are increasingly being used in all these areas to make power appliances more efficient, smarter, and safer.  Hundreds of end equipment manufacturers had set up exhibit booths in the conference to showcase their offerings in these areas. Starting from suppliers of copper wires there were industry giants who offered turn-key system-level solutions. 

A special event called "Innovatin Day" was held on Jan 11, 2014.  Innovation is key in the power sector. A speaker mentioned that of the ~1 billion people in India, only 600 million have access to electrical power. The remaining 400 million depend on sources such as wood, charcoal, and kerosene. An attendee asked a tricky question - does any of us use electrical energy? He also provided the answer - none of us use electrical energy. At least not directly. We convert electrical energy into heat, light, or mechanical energy before using it! Innovation lies in asking if electrical energy is scarce, we have to ask ourselves if there are alternate ways to produce light, heat, and motion, with the same conversion efficiency of electrical appliances.  We did visit a number of exhibit stalls where alternate sources of energy, such as solar energy and wind, were being demonstrated. 

A second interesting fact  that I learnt was related to the energy requirement of the state of Karnataka in India. The peak power requirement in 2014 is estimated at 8000 MW. Of this, 37% will come from the rural sector, since more and more farmers are beginning to rely on electrical pumps to take out underground water. With water tables falling in height every passing year, more power is expected to be spent in this task. When we look at this statistic in conjunction with a second statistic presented by a senior manager from ABB who was present in the audience, we uncover a somewhat unnerving fact. It was mentioned that the electrical energy loss is India is increasing every passing year. While some of it may be due to power theft, the use of inefficient electrical equipment may account for the rest of the losses. The manager made a call for action where industries and academia must work together to understand the reasons for the losses. He feels that this may be a low-hanging fruit for innovators in the power and energy sector.

While returning from the event, I told Vaibhav that student teams who are taking part in our contests must ponder on this issue. I am proud to say that a number of student participants of the Texas Instruments Innovation Challenge - India Analog Design Contest have selected Power and Energy as their project themes. This has been the trend for the past three years. In fact, in 2013, the top prize went to a team that had worked on a solar inverter.  I am also aware of research efforts in Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, to track the usage of electrical energy in urban homes and creating an awareness (and a sense of urgency to save energy) among users through gaming techniques! TI offers a large suite of embedded processors and analog integrated circuits that will help in developing projects in areas such as accurate measurement of energy, power, impedance, and other electrical quantities. ICs are available for power conversion, e.g. DC/DC converters. A number of solutions from TI for the power and energy sector were on display at TI's booth. Please visit www.ti.com/power for finding out more about TI's offerings in the power management sector. Remember that you can request for free samples of ICs from www.ti.com.

If you are a student who is beginning to think about submitting a proposal for our 2014-2015 contest, we urge you to think of the power and energy sectors! The call for participation for the 2014-2015 contest will be available soon! Do write to us if you wish to receive a copy of the poster.

Vaibhav was excited about the robot which was on display at the ABB booth.

This factory automation robot could pick up round objects of the shape of coins and place them accurately into slots.

Prof. V.K. Atre, Mr. Tarun Vijay (writer), Mr. Pankaj Kumar Pandey (MD, BESCOM) were panelists at the Innovation Day.