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Buck converter design

Buck converter design

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Power Electronics Technology June 2006 www.powerelectronics.com 
46
Buck-ConverterDesign Demystified
 Though stepdown converters are extremelypopular, the rules of thumb and calculations thatspeed their design can be hard to find.
By Donald Schelle
and
Jorge Castorena,
Technical Staff,Maxim Integrated Products, Sunnyvale, Calif.
S
tepdown (buck) switching converters are integralto modern electronics. They can convert a voltagesource (typically 8 V to 25 V) into a lower regu-lated voltage (typically 0.5 V to 5 V). Stepdownconverters transfer small packets of energy using aswitch, a diode, an inductor and several capacitors. Thoughsubstantially larger and noisier than their linear-regulatorcounterparts, buck converters offer higher efficiency inmost cases.espite their widespread use, buck-converter designscan pose challenges to both novice and intermediate power-supply designers because almost all of the rules of thumband some of the calculations governing their design arehard to find. And though some of the calculations are read-ily available in IC data sheets, even these calculations areoccasionally reprinted with errors. In this article, all of thedesign information required to design a buck converter isconveniently collected in one place.Buck-converter manufacturers often specify a typicalapplication circuit to help engineers quickly design a workingprototype, which in turn often specifies component valuesand part numbers. What they rarely provide is a detaileddescription of how the components are selected. Supposea customer uses the exact circuit provided. When a criticalcomponent becomes obsolete or a cheaper substitute isneeded, the customer is usually without a method for select-ing an equivalent component.This article covers only one stepdown regulator topology 
  
one with a fixed switching frequency, pulse width modu-lation (PWM) and operation in the continuous-currentmode (CCM). The principles discussed can be applied toother topologies, but the equations do not apply directly toother topologies. To highlight the intricacies of stepdownconverter design, we present an example that includes a de-tailed analysis for calculating the various component values.Four design parameters are required: input-voltage range,regulated output voltage, maximum output current and theconverter’s switching frequency.
Fig. 1
lists these parameters,along with the circuit illustration and basic componentsrequired for a buck converter.
Inductor Selection
Calculating the inductor value is most critical in designinga stepdown switching converter. First, assume the converteris in CCM, which is usually the case. CCM implies that theinductor does not fully discharge during the switch-off time.The following equations assume an ideal switch (zero on-resistance, infinite off-resistance and zero switching time)and an ideal diode: (Eq. 1)LVVfLIRI
UTW
MAXAXAX
× × ×
)V
U
 
,11where f 
W
is the buck-converter switching frequency andIR is the inductor-current ratio expressed as a percentage of I
UT
(e.g., for a 300-mA
p-p
ripple current with a 1-A output,IR = 0.3 A/1 A = 0.3 LIR).An LIR of 0.3 represents a good tradeoff betweenefficiency and load-transient response. Increasing the LIRconstant—allowing more inductor ripple current—quickens
Fig. 1.
Basic stepdown converter circuit with operating parameters.
 
ControllerP1V
IN
V
OUT
LC
OUT
C
IN
DP MOSFET
V
IN
= 7 V
24 V V
OUT
= 2 VI
OUT
f
SW
= 300 kHz
MAX
= 7 A++
 
Power Electronics Technology June 2006 www.powerelectronics.com 
48
BUCK-CONVERTER DESIGNS 
the load-transient response, and decreasing the LIR con-stant—thereby reducing the inductor ripple current—slowsthe load-transient response.
Fig. 2
depicts transient responseand inductor current for a given load current, for LIR con-stants ranging from 0.2 to 0.5.Peak current through the inductor determines theinductor’s required saturation-current rating, which in turndictates the approximate size of the inductor. Saturatingthe inductor core decreases the converter efficiency, whileincreasing the temperatures of the inductor, the MOSFETand the diode. You can calculate the inductor’s peak operat-ing current as follows:IIIIV
INDUCTORI
MAXAX
×
2, where
 
NUTSW
AXAX
VVfL
×× ×
.11For the values listed in
Fig. 1
, these equations yield a cal-culated inductance of 2.91
µ
H (LIR = 0.3). Select an availablevalue that is close to the calculated value, such as a 2.8 µH,and make sure that its saturation-current rating is higherthan the calculated peak current (I
PEAK
= 8.09 A).Choose a saturation-current rating that’s large enough(10 A in this case) to compensate for circuit tolerances and thedifference between actual and calculated component values.An acceptable margin for this purpose, while limiting theinductor’s physical size, is 20% above the calculated rating.Inductors of this size and current rating typically have amaximum dc resistance range (DCR) of 5 m
to 8 m
. Tominimize power loss, choose an inductor with the lowestpossible DCR. Although data sheet specifications vary amongvendors, always use the maximum DCR specification for de-sign purposes rather than the typical value, because the maxi-mum is a guaranteed worst-case component specification.
Output Capacitor Selection
Output capacitance is required to minimize the voltageovershoot and ripple present at the output of a stepdownconverter. Large overshoots are caused by insufficient outputcapacitance, and large voltage ripple is caused by insufficientcapacitance as well as a high equivalent-series resistance(ESR) in the output capacitor. The maximum allowedoutput-voltage overshoot and ripple are usually specified atthe time of design. Thus, to meet the ripple specification fora stepdown converter circuit, you must include an outputcapacitor with ample capacitance and low ESR.The problem of overshoot, in which the output-voltageovershoots its regulated value when a full load is suddenly removed from the output, requires that the output capaci-tor be large enough to prevent stored inductor energy fromlaunching the output above the specified maximum outputvoltage. Output-voltage overshoot can be calculated usingthe following equation:(Eq. 2)
VVLCV
UU
      
2
)
I
OU
 
TINDUCTOR
AX
+
.Rearranging Eq. 2 yields: (Eq. 3)CII V
OOUTINDUCTORUT
A
 
X
 
=
 
 
 
 
 
 2 
22
V
,where C equals output capacitance and
V equals maxi-mum output-voltage overshoot.Setting the maximum output-voltage overshoot to100 mV and solving Eq. 3 yields a calculated output capaci-tance of 442
µ
F. Adding the typical capacitor-value tolerance(20%) gives a practical value for output capacitance of ap-proximately 530
µ
F. The closest standard value is 560
µ
F.Output ripple due to the capacitance alone is given by:VCVVVV
UOUTUTW
CAPACITORAXMAX
× × ×    
121
2
SR of the output capacitor dominates the output-voltageripple. The amount can be calculated as follows:VESR
C
RIPPLE
×
.Be aware that choosing a capacitor with very low ESR may cause the power converter to be unstable. The factors thataffect stability vary from IC to IC, so when choosing an out-put capacitor, be sure to read the data sheet and pay specialattention to sections dealing with converter stability.
 
LIR = 0.2LIR = 0.3LIR = 0.4LIR = 0.5
Fig. 2.
 As LIR increases from 0.2 to 0.5, the load-transient response quickens. The top waveform is the ac-coupled output-voltage ripple, at 100 mV/div. The center waveform is the current load at 5 A/div. And the bottom waveform is the inductor current at 5 A/div. The time scale is20 s/div for all waveforms.
 
www.powerelectronics.com Power Electronics Technology June 2006 
49
Adding the output-voltage ripple due to capacitance value(the first term in Eq. 4) and the output-capacitor ESR (thesecond term in Eq. 4) yields the total output-voltage ripplefor the stepdown converter:VCVVVVI
UTOUTWINDU
RIPPLEMAXMAX
= × × ×    
121
2
TOR
 
C
ESR
O
×
.(Eq. 4)Rearranging Eq. 4 to solve for ESR yields:ESRIVCVVLVV
INDUCTORUTUTUIN
ORIPPLEAXMAX
×× ×
1121
W
         
2
(Eq. 5)A decent stepdown converter usually achieves an output-voltage ripple of less than 2% (40 mV in our case). For a560-
µ
F output capacitance, Eq. 5 yields 18.8 m
for themaximum calculated ESR. Therefore, choose a capacitorwith ESR that’s lower than 18.8 m
and a capacitance that’sequal to or greater than 560
µ
F. To achieve an equivalent ESRvalue less than 18.8 m
, you can connect multiple low-ESRcapacitors in parallel.
Fig. 3
presents output-ripple voltage versus output capaci-tance and ESR. Because our example uses tantalum capaci-tors, capacitor ESR dominates the output-voltage ripple.
Input Capacitor Selection
The input capacitor’s ripple-current rating dictates itsvalue and physical size, and the following equation calculatesthe amount of ripple current the input capacitor must beable to handle:IVV
OUTIN
RMSMAX
)VV
I
 
NUT
.
Fig. 3.
The output capacitor’s equivalent series resistance (ESR)dominates the output-voltage ripple.
Fig. 4
plots ripple current for the capacitor (shown as amultiple of the output current) against the input voltageof the buck converter (shown as a ratio of output voltageto input voltage). The worst case occurs when V
IN
= 2V
OUT
 (V
OUT
V
IN
= 0.5), yieldingI
OUT
MAX
/ 2for the worst-caseripple-current rating.The input capacitance required for a stepdown converterdepends on the impedance of the input power source. Forcommon laboratory power supplies, 10
µ
F to 22
µ
F of ca-pacitance per ampere of output current is usually sufficient.Given the design parameters of 
Fig. 1
, you can calculate theinput-ripple current as 3.16 A. You then can start with 40
µ
Fin total input capacitance and can adjust that value accordingto subsequent test results.Tantalum capacitors are a poor choice for input capaci-tors. They usually fail “short,” meaning the failed capaci-tor creates a short circuit across its terminals and thereby raises the possibility of a fire hazard. Ceramic or aluminum-electrolytic capacitors are preferred because they don’t havethis failure mode.Ceramic capacitors are the better choice when pc-boardarea or component height is limited, but ceramics may cause your circuit to produce an audible buzz. This high-pitched noise is caused by physical vibration of the ceramiccapacitor against the pc board as a result of the capacitor’sferroelectric properties and piezo phenomena reacting to thevoltage ripple. Polymer capacitors can alleviate this problem.
UCK-CONVERTER DESIGNS
 
ESR
CO
(
)Outputcapacitance(F)0.5
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0.40.30.20.108-10
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000.0250.050.0750.1
 
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