You know the feeling: grab the power supply, plug it into the wall, connect it to your device, flick on the switch…nothing.
In our electrical and digital world, the source of pretty much everything is power. Feed your system the right type, and you tap into the infinite potential of our rapidly advancing 21st century. Get it wrong, and you’re back in the Dark Ages – or worse.
What is power supply?
In the crudest possible terms, power supplies are what give every electronic system the power it needs.
It might look like the wire and “brick” that you plug into the wall for your laptop.
It could be the even bigger “brick” mounted inside your desktop computer.
But it’s actually any unit whatsoever that gets power from an energy source, including generators, solar converters, batteries and fuel cells, and converts that electricity into the exact voltage, frequency and current required to get the job done.
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Rather, this power supply type refers to Alternating Current/Direct Current, with ‘AC’ being the two-way current from your power points, and ‘DC’ the one-way current required by devices.
The reason one particular power supply can be completely useless (or even destructive) when used with the inappropriate device is that it will be trying to convert the current into the wrong voltage, frequency and current.
A 24v DC power supply, for instance, will be worthless if the device if the laptop or other device requires Australia’s 240v mains supply to be converted into 12v.
What are some of the main power supply types?
With all of that in mind, it’s easy to recognise that, depending on what you want to get done, a fundamentally different type or characteristic of the power supply may be necessary:
This widespread power supply type takes the AC voltage and converts it into the device’s DC power requirements.
It’s done with the help of transistors that work like on and off switches to regulate the power.
They’re common because they’re light, cheap, and highly adaptable for use with pretty much any power system, but the downside can be the tendency for AC “noise”.
These power sources, widespread in facilities like data centres, are perfect for when the mains power fails because they provide energy that is typically stored in a battery.
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As opposed to rudimentary, unstable and noisy unregulated power supplies, a regulated power supply will ensure that the output voltage is always at exactly the right level, irrespective of the current being consumed by the device.
As with the 12v DC power supply described earlier, this power supply type requires a regulator, which ensures the voltage is reliable, smooth and steady.
With this sophisticated power supply type, you are able to change the current, voltage and frequency by remote control, and use microcomputers to control and monitor their operation for complex and high voltage devices like X-rays.
The final word: Power supplies galore!
But in truth, just as the backbones of thousands of vertebrate animal species are all fundamentally similar, the sky really is the limit when contemplating the backbone of every electrical system, whether invented or uninvented – the power supply.
According to BetterHelp, “Day by day, as our electrical and digital world evolves and innovates, and therefore, the list will continue to grow.”