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Luigi Malesani and Paolo Tomasin Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Padova Via Gradeniso 6a, 35 131, Padova, Italy Tel. (39)(49) 8287507
Abstract  The paper gives a synthetic survey of available Current
Control Techniques of the Voltage Source Inverters. These techniques have gained an increasing importance with the widespread application of Voltage Source Inverters in high performance applications, such as AC drives, AC Power Supplies and Active Filters, where fast response and high accuracy are needed. A variety of methods have been proposed, which can be gathered into three main categories: linear control (or ramp comparison), hysteresis control and predictive control. The fundamentals of these methods are described and the more recent developments are discussed. The impact of the introduction of digital techniques and of the availability of powerful microcontrollers on the development of reliable and sophisticated current controls is put in evidence. INTRODUCTION In DC/AC conversion there is now a general preference to use voltagesource rather than currentsource inverters (Fig. I)[ 1 +3]. This trend, which grew in the last two decades, is mainly justified by the introduction of power devices with self turnoff capability and by the advantages of a capacitive DC storage, over an inductive one, in terms of weight, cost and efficiency. Additional advantages are determined by the fact that this kind of converters is well matched with the inductive characteristic of usual AC loads, without the need of output filter capacitors, and the majority of modern power devices have antiparallel freewheeling diodes, deriving from their physical structure or included in the package. As a result, voltage source inverters (VSI) have become a simple and reliable solution, and currentsource converters (line commutated or PWM controlled) are now used mainly where bidirectional power flow with the AC supply is needed, or in AClDC conversion with highinductance DC loads, such as magnets or large DC motors. On the other hand, motors and other AC loads which are usually fed by converters exhibit in general better performance and faster response if they are currentfed rather than voltagefed [I]. In AC motors, current control reduces the dependence on stator parameters and allows an immediate action on the torque delivered by the machine. In other AC loads, such in the case of UPS, current control results in an increased stability of the control loop and in an intrinsic shortcircuit protection. These requirements can be fulfilled, while keeping the advantages of the VSI power structure, by a closedloop regulation of the AC currents produced by the inverter. This solution ensures several additional advantages. Among them, it gives the control of the current waveform within the AC period, which compensates also for load transients and nonlinearities and for commutation delays. The feedback loop results also in some limitations: fastresponse voltage modulation techniques must be employed, such as Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) [4+7] or Discrete Pulse Modulation (DPM)[8 lo]. Instead, Optimal Techniques, which use precalculated switching patterns within the AC period [11,12], can be hardly used, as they are not oriented to ensure current waveform control, A number of VSI currentregulation techniques have been developed, which differ for the kind of modulation and for the type of control used. As regards the modulation, except for DPM which is used mainly in the case of Resonant Link Converters (RDCL), PWM is generally used. For this latter, fixed or variable frequency or random modulation can be successfully employed. As regards the control, three main categories can he considered: Linear (or Ramp Comparison) Control [ 13+ 191, 0780308913/93$03.00019931EEE
Hysteresis Control [20+37] and Predictive Control [38+61]. Alternative
and innovative kinds of current regulation, however, have been adopted, such as Delta and Sigma Delta Modulation (AM, CAM)[62+66] and Neural N e m r k s and/or Fuzzy Logic Controls [67+69]. For each of these categories, a variety of modifications and improvements of the basic principles have been developed, due to extensive work done and to large interest on the application of this kind of converters. In today’s practice, voltage source inverters with Current Regulation (CR) are employed in every application where fast response, high accuracy and highlevel performance are needed. As these features are required more and more, the interest toward cheap, reliable and highquality currentregulation techniques is increasing too. Due to the wide variety of techniques proposed, there is the need of summarize and compare the characteristics of the available solutions [70,71]. Some authoritative works describing the status of the art, both in VSI current regulation [72,73] and, more in general, in PWM techniques [74] have been presented recently. In this paper, a further contribution is given to an overall view of this vast subject.
BASICCONCEFTS
In order to compare so many different approaches, it may be useful to recall some common basic concepts. A threephase Voltage Source Inverter (Fig.l), generates at each output phase i a voltage U, with twolevel, rectangular waveform (neglecting the commutation times) (Fig.2a). In conventional VSI, there are not mutual constraints between phase switching instants, so that the pulse length can be varied continuously (PWM). In some cases however, commutation mechanism (RDCL, DPM) or control system (AM) allow commutations only at fixed times. Usually, losses put a limitation on the average switching frequency of each phase. Filter, Control or other needs may also require the switching frequency to be constant. Modulation process controls the phase switching sequence according to a given reference U,*, so that the phase voltage loworder harmonics result in a voltage ui (mean average) whose waveform should follow U,* as close as possible. Modulation generates also high order harmonics, located around the switching frequency. If this latter is high enough, the two groups are quite separated each other. A translation of pulse position within the modulation period does not affect appreciably mean average value u, (Fig.2~). If a threephase load with no neutral connection is fed by the inverter, phase currents depend only on voltage difference between phases, so that only two degrees of freedom are allowed: a common term can be added to the phase voltages, thus shifting their mean value U , , without affecting load currents. This shift is often used to extend the maximum phase voltage which can be produced by the inverter. At this
1:
TFig.1

Voltage Source Inverter
670
called also Ramp Comparison or SineTriangle Current Regulator. in case of transients and of distorted waveforms.2b.. in drive applications. but also by those of other phases. Thus.73.e...18]. These errors add to low frequency errors resulting from voltage modulation and to the high frequency ripple.2b and Fig.*’ a b generally obtained by means of a closedloop control.2d) is particularly suitable to treat as a whole the phase voltage effects on the load [1. mainly at high modulation index. no commutations are needed for that leg (discontinuous switching). harmonic value and the distortion factor.m.. when sinusoidal phase voltages are produced. While the low frequency errors (tracking errors) influence the performance of the drive.. are shifted so that the upper (the lower) of them coincides with the voltage of the upper (lower) DC rail. Vector representation of inverter states (Figs.5]. A sensible ripple reduction.27]. a phase interference results. a suitable third harmonic term can be added.. In other cases..2d). phase currents are determined not only by their own phase voltage. LINEAR CONTROL Linear Current Control. voltages U. current phase error may be of particular concern for the correct behaviour of fieldoriented controls at high speed.. uses three independent PI error Fig. however. equal mean average current i. It employs dq transformation on error signals. Some accuracy evaluation criteria have been proposed [39.3) [13+ 191.74]. the behaviour is quite different. which degrade the mean average current precision. is kept at the middle of DC supply. which is well suited to drives and to all cases where sinusoidal current and voltage waveforms are required. Vector representation. A feedforward action can help if load structure is determined enough. different vector paths produce different current ripples. also the maximum phase voltage is increased by a 15% with respect to the centered PWM.m. even in case of six step operation of the inverter. . in an equal length for states 0 and 7 (5. has also some drawbacks: the correspondence with phase commutations is less immediate and some aspects.Pulse patterns and vectors purpose. Thus. However. on an inductive load (Fig. with a choice of i& corresponding to F i g .4 .f. the current ripple is usually related to losses.7. the most closely connected to current control seem to be the r m s . while proportional gain and zero placement are related to the amount of ripple: maximum slope of error signals U.g. This latter is usually referred to the current harmonic content given by a square wave voltage waveform at fundamental frequency [74]. the regulator performance is satisfactory only if the significant harmonics of current references and of load e.Linear Current Regulator Fig. Current control of a VSI requires to determine the phase voltages which will produce the desired mean average load currents. lose evidence. The control loop is more or less affected by low frequency error terms. e. Additional problems may arise from multiple crossing of triangular boundaries. This regulator is directly derived from the original triangular suboscillation method [4].f. being sensitive to the fundamental component of current.2 .This condition results in a maximum of zero states duration and. This feature is of particular ‘lc PI ’& 67 1 Current References Fig3 . it ensures the correct phase relationship of the load current with its reference. the determination of phase voltage mean value.4)[16]. especially in case the load e. 2 ~ . so that their fundamental components become DC quantities.. With this choice. . Among them. Other important performance figures are the transient response time and the degree of utilization of DClink voltage. . as the output current ripple is fed back and influences the switching times. or other system where the VSI operates. While phase voltages can be controlled independently. i. This is amplifiers to produce voltage references for a threephase triangular PWM modulator (Fig. however.. A modification of linear control. As a consequence. should never exceed the triangle slope. PI amplifiers reduce to zero the steady state errors due to fundamental components of current and of e m f . An additional benefit of this regulator is that. I .17. . so that the average switching frequency is reduced [6. Moreover. with no effect on the load. On the other hand..2d). which are related each other. noises and vibrations. thus determining the overall system accuracy. in vector representation (Fig. can be determined [14.Rotating frame linear current regulator . where &. Feedforward error correction has been employed. Integral amplifier characteristic minimizes errors at low frequency.741. Vector sequences with the same resultant give equal mean voltages U. *. is that of the RotatingFrame Current Regulator (Fig. are limited at a frequency well below than that of triangle carrier (less than 1/9) (51.: T . is obtained when phase pulses are centered and symmetrical. . The response remains limited.
injection of commonmode signal to synchronize the operation and reduce interference 1361.35.25]. and its performance is improving as the switching frequency of modern power devices increases. in dependence of error vector. The advantages of this technique are high simplicity.24. however. Thus. as dq transforms are more easily performed by digital means [19]. robust and insensitive to load parameters. Its instantaneous response would be deteriorated by A/D conversion or microprocessor interrupt delays. However. outstanding robustness and a response speed limited only by switching speed and load time constant. due to the interference between phase controls.bad Actual currents Fig. according to the vector control concept. and a suitable vector voltage is selected. it can be made fast enough as not to deteriorate the regulator speed. where signal acquisition is discrete in time and in amplitude. hysteresis approach is hardly compatible with the alldigital trend which is now taking place.25.51.46. and can be associated with the today's fast and powerful microcontrollers. the voltage vector to be generated by PWM during the next modulation cycle is thus determined so as to minimize the forecast error (Fig. are considered in many applications as unfavourable.45. good accuracy.53]. such as fast drives for actuators or precision AC power supplies. an its consequences. by means of a lookup table . an hexagonal [25] or square hysteresis field [29. PREDICT~VE CONTROL HYSTERESIS CONTROL Hysteresis Current Control is an instantaneous feedback system which detects the current error and produces directly the drive commands for the switches when the error exceeds an assigned band (Fig. were such an operating condition is met very often. particularly for drives of low and medium performance. which perform at least the task of PWM modulation. Even in the case a PI amplifier is introduced in the loop to eliminate steady state errors due to commutation delays. which make use of more or less sophisticated plant models for the prediction.42. and by performing calculations often complex. A quantity of proposals has been made to overcome the hysteresis regulator limitations: variable band amplitude or shape to get constant frequency [21. is that of decoupling error signals by subtracting an interference signal derived from mean inverter voltage U. For the regulator. attempts were made to translate the scheme to a digital implementation [15]. a variety of dedicated ICs are available. An alternative approach is that of controlling the inverter as a whole.6 . Linear Regulator is satisfactory for a large number of applications.26.7  I I I l l Basic predictive current control 672 . Within the class of predictive regulators a large variety of solutions can be included [72]. It is simple. like the variable switching frequency and the random operation. Vector control would remain in any case only a part of the total hardware required. regular operation is obtained and phase commutations may (but not need to) be easily synchronized to a clock. The origin of the main drawbacks of threephase hysteresis regulator. Attempts are made to reduce the asymmetry between phase behaviours (371. delays and inaccuracies which limit the regulator speed and performance are introduced. Quite early. The method gives good results. by detecting the error only at fixed intervals. An approach which eliminates the interference. Moreover. where decoupling is more easily obtained without estimating load impedance [27]. Fig. Their determination can require the use of observers or other high performance  Inverter h Rekrerlce Current Vectnr Currant Vwkr Actwl Fig. However. high speed applications where its features cannot be replaced by other solutions. even if the more sophisticated modifications are Predictive Current Control is a technique which predicts at the beginning of each modulation period the evolution of the current error vector on the basis of the actual error and of the load parameters and other load variables.5)[20*37]. Linear current regulator structure is well suited to be implemented by analog schemes. Once decoupled.28.27.Basic hysteresis current control importance for drive applications. introduction of zerostates or delays to avoid limitcycle operation [20. and where it is easier to improve calculation power than to increase sampling rate and reduce conversion and calculation times.22. by giving to the regulator more informations than the mere error signal. and this solution has been extensively used for a long time. The advantage of this technique is that.7) [38+61].37] is defined in the a A plane.6)[26]. Some characteristics. This latter is particularly convenient for the Rotating Frame Regulator. Similar results are obtained in case of "discontinuous switching" operation. Among the additional informations given to the control. the predictive regulation is often also called "dead beat control" [40. predictive regulators are particularly suitable for digital implementation. In high accuracy applications. the system complexity should not be overestimated. When the choice of the voltage vector is made in order to null the error at the end of the cycle. It remains in many cases well below than that of many digital controls. hysteresis current regulator is the fastest and more stable control available. Thus. Despite to its limitations. In its various implementation. hysteresis control application is likely to be adopted mainly in highperformance. non available state variables (such as flux or speed) can be include. has been clarified in [23]. At this end.5 . (Fig. it is the only control which is able to face the load and inverter nonlinearities due to commutation delays.Decoupled. constant frequency hysteresis current control introduced. a faster and more accurate response can be obtained. and could be greatly reduced by the development of dedicated ICs.32.34].
Therefore. such as neural networks and fuzzy logic. Delta control has been mainly studied for those resonant link inverters. No proposals are known of application of neural networks in predictive regulators. but operating principle is quite different. 673 . which reduces error of these components and eases the operation of the inverter in saturated conditions [66). vector sequence can be very easily determined by the help of precalculated lookup tables [52]. for inverters. thus limiting the subharmonic content.49. At present. A first effect of this discretization is that. DELTA MODULATION The basic structure of a current regulated Delta Modulator is shown in Fig. which allow commutations only at fixed time intervals. This is the case of generation of a set of symmetrical threephase sinusoidal currents. As a counterpart. due to its simplicity. blowers & fans. so that the change rate is limited and zero vector states become possible [63]. a reduced discretization is obtained. At this regard. In the first case. The interest for predictive current regulators is growing with the increasing trend for totally digital controls. The sampling rate is typically limited by inverter switching speed or by calculation time. for low performance applications with large diffusion (pumps. CONCLUSIONS Current Control Techniques for Voltage Source Inverters can he subdivided as Linear. These solutions can be more easily adopted as the calculation power and speed of modern digital systems increase. such as GTOs. The performance of this class of regulators. is of particular relevance in this case. that opposes to the capability of continuous variation of output voltages which is peculiar of PWM. In fact. Its implementation requires a limited amount of hardware. The basic principles and the latest developments of these techniques have been synthetically described in the paper. a non negligible amount of subharmonics is generated [9. The latter problem. In this instance. where switching instant of three phases are shifted by one third of period [65]. The advantages and limitations have been examined. When applied to threephase inverters with insulatedneutral load. like MOSFET inverters. Thus. Hysteresis. At the same purpose. Hysteresis controls. capable of operation at very high frequency. Therefore. in their improved version.57. These features are of particular importance in drive applications. but the design calls for a large amount of expertise [73]. For this case. An application offuzzy logic in linear current regulators is described in (691. is quite low. Thus. trained off line. particular attention is given to systems including some selftuning and selfadapting capability [43]. to obtain comparable results. leading to simple and effective regulators. f . In some cases. the availability on the market of cheap. There are some proposal to take advantage of learning capability and nonlinear nature of neural nenuorks. accurate conversion systems. delta modulators are very simple and insensitive to the load parameters. not only the sampling rate is limited.Delta modulation current regulator although at a frequency much higher than that of conventional inverters [62]. NEURALAND FUZZY CONTROLS The introduction of innovative control techniques in current regulation looks attractive. a constant switching frequency is usually adopted. which often may be shared with the control of the entire system. or some synchronization with the fundamental component is introduced. digitally implemented linear regulators are well adequate. However. whose outputs are sampled at a fixed rate so that inverter status is kept constant during each sampling interval. but only hasic voltage vectors can be generated by the inverter for a fixed time. as in case of drives [41.60.10. the mutual phase interference and the increased degree of freedom in the voltage vedor choice must he taken into account. the adoption of precalculated switching paths has been proposed. are well suited to fast. This solution may be interesting. some proposals have been made for delta modulators. The desired robustness and accuracy are obtained with quite simple structures. Thus. It looks quite similar to that o f a hysteresis regulator.50. to improve the performance both of linear regulators [68] and of hysteresis controls [67]. avoids the interference and limit cycle problems. a delta modulator should switch at a frequency about ten times higher than a PWM modulator [71I. according to some proposals. system informations allow to simplify the prediction process. lnteresting perspectives seem to come also from innovative controls. only error sign is detected by comparators. In particular. and their sophistication. Predictive controllers applications are quickly growing in medium/high performance systems. which cannot be neglected also for the other regulator types. In these situations. indicating the application field where each technique is particularly suited.control blocks.71]. to prevent the generation of subharmonics. This mode of operation gives a discretization of inverter output voltage. for classical applications such as induction motor AC drives. A further proposal is to employ a transformation into a dq rotating frame. and adjusts itself in order to compensate for steady state errors at various loading situations. Predictive and Delta Modulation Controls. instead of performing independent delta modulation in each phase control. as the amount of feedback employed is limited and typically affected by appreciable delays. .61]. retrofit applications). especially if fuzzy control includes also other system variables. is rising together with the speed and calculation power of today’s digital electronics [ S I . especially for traction and high power units. H S/H Actual currents Fig. neural network replaces PI amplifier.56. in order to overcome the limitations of the classical control methods. The results seem to be appreciable.8 [62+66]. in order to perform a PI control of fundamental components. the switching frequency allowed by power semiconductors. but it is often so close to the required fundamental frequency that the optimization of current trajectories and of switching instants is of major importance to obtain acceptable results [39.61]. the only limitations for these regulators are in the response speed and in the accuracy of system parameters used for the plant model. introducing suitable procedures to ensure adequate response to transients and smooth transition from one steady operation to the other [44. the network. output vectors are chosen in dependence not only of the error vector. . such as those employed in AC drives in steady state. such as flux and torque in AC drives. In some specific applications. The main limitation resides in the time consuming design procedure 1731. but also in function of the previous status. reliable and high performance solutions can be envisaged in a next future.59]. when synthesizing periodic waveforms.8 . no pulse width modulation is performed. In the second case. mainly if the control is applied to large power systems.
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